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Daily News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates increased in 14 labor-market areas, decreased in one, and remained the same in nine labor market areas in the state during the month of February, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported.

Compared to February 2017, the rates dropped in 22 labor-market areas, increased in one, and remained the same in one labor market area.

Seven of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded a seasonal job gain in February. The largest gains occurred in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Springfield, Worcester, and Peabody-Salem-Beverly areas.

From February 2017 to February 2018, 12 of the 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, Leominster-Gardner, and Lynn-Saugus-Marblehead areas.

In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for February was 4.0%.

Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.5% in the month of February. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 13,700-job gain in February, and an over-the-year gain of 39,100 jobs.

The unadjusted unemployment rates and job estimates for the labor market areas reflect seasonal fluctuations and therefore may show different levels and trends than the statewide seasonally adjusted estimates.

The estimates for labor force, unemployment rates, and jobs for Massachusetts are based on different statistical methodology specified by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Thursday, April 12 will be an evening of inspiration and celebration when hundreds of people gather at CityStage to celebrate the work of Dress for Success of Western Massachusetts.

“This evening is about realizing what truly empowers women’s greatest,” said Dawn Creighton, board president of Dress for Success. “It’s so much more than suits and shoes. When young women dream about who they want to be, they see much more than clothes, and so do we. We see bright futures, fulfilling careers, and healthy families. We see leaders.”

This year’s event will feature an artistic visual representation of the Dress for Success mission and vision by Robert Charles Photography.

“We hope this image will inspire countless young girls to see themselves as the amazing women they will one day become,” said Edward Zemba, president of Robert Charles Photography.

With the support of its donors, volunteers and community partners, each year Dress for Success serves nearly 70,000 women worldwide.

The Common Threads event will share the success stories of several recent program participants who received support, tools, and professional attire necessary to pursue employment. The event will feature speeches by Pattie Hallberg, CEO of Girl Scouts Central and Western Massachusetts; Maura McCaffrey, president and CEO of Health New England; and Christina Royal, president of Holyoke Community College. Each speaker will share her personal journey to get to where she is today.

Tickets for the event, which runs from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., are on sale now for $50. To purchase tickets, click here or contact Margaret Tantillo at (413) 732-8179 or [email protected].

Class of 2018 Difference Makers Event Galleries

A Look at the March 22 Event

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More than 375 people turned out at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House on March 22 to honor BusinessWest’s 2018 Difference Makers. Launched in 2009, the program recognizes groups and individuals across the region that are making a difference in their community. The honorees this year were: Bob Bolduc, CEO of Pride Stores; Bob ‘the Bike Man’ Charland, founder of Pedal Thru Youth; Girls Inc. of Holyoke; Evan Plotkin, president of NAI Plotkin; Crystal Senter-Brown, author and adjunct faculty member at Bay Path University; and the WillPower Foundation.

Our 2018 Difference Makers:
Bob Bolduc, CEO of Pride Stores
Bob “The Bike Man” Charland, Founder of Pedal Thru Youth
Girls Inc. of Holyoke
Evan Plotkin, President of NAI Plotkin
Crystal Senter-Brown, Author & Adjunct Faculty at Bay Path University
WillPower Foundation

     

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

From event sponsor Burkhart Pizzanelli, P.C., from

From event sponsor Burkhart Pizzanelli, P.C., from left: Adam Kuzdzal, Deborah Penzias, Josh Messer, Julie Quink, Tom Pratt, Carol LaCour, Rebecca Connolly, Stephanie Tobin, and Sarah Lapolice.

From event sponsor Health New England

From event sponsor Health New England, from left: Peggy Garand, Vivian Williams, Brendaliz Torres, Sandra Ruiz, Ashley Allen, Matt Sturgis (guest of HNE), and Jessica Dupont.

Gina Kos (left) and Michelle Depelteau from event sponsor Sunshine Village.

Gina Kos (left) and Michelle Depelteau from event sponsor Sunshine Village.

Sr. Kathleen Popko (left) and Sr. Mary Caritas from the Sisters of Providence, a 2013 Difference Maker.

Sr. Kathleen Popko (left) and Sr. Mary Caritas from the Sisters of Providence, a 2013 Difference Maker.

Bob Bolduc, founder of Pride Stores and a 2018 Difference Maker.

Bob Bolduc, founder of Pride Stores and a 2018 Difference Maker.

From 2018 Difference Maker the WillPower Foundation, from left: Sabrina Aasheim, Jeff Palm, and Maria Burke.

From 2018 Difference Maker the WillPower Foundation, from left: Sabrina Aasheim, Jeff Palm, and Maria Burke.

From left: Kate Kane of Northwestern Mutual, a 2009 Difference Maker, with Nick LaPier, CPA and BusinessWest Associate Publisher Kate Campiti.

From left: Kate Kane of Northwestern Mutual, a 2009 Difference Maker, with Nick LaPier, CPA and BusinessWest Associate Publisher Kate Campiti.

Bill Ward, a 2009 Difference Maker, with Joanne Lyons

Bill Ward, a 2009 Difference Maker, with Joanne Lyons of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County.

Carol Leary, a 2016 Difference Maker, with 2018 Difference Maker Evan Plotkin

Bay Path University President Carol Leary, a 2016 Difference Maker, with 2018 Difference Maker Evan Plotkin, president of NAI Plotkin.

Tricia Canavan of United Personnel with Scott Foster of Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas and also Valley Venture Mentors, a 2016 Difference Maker.

Tricia Canavan of United Personnel with Scott Foster of Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas and also Valley Venture Mentors, a 2016 Difference Maker.

Sandra Ruiz, left, and Brendaliz Torres, from event sponsor Health New England.

Sandra Ruiz, left, and Brendaliz Torres, from event sponsor Health New England.

Bob Bolduc, left, with Bob ‘the Bike Man’ Charland, two of 2018’s Difference Makers.

Bob Bolduc, left, with Bob ‘the Bike Man’ Charland, two of 2018’s Difference Makers.

Representing event sponsor Sunshine Village

Representing event sponsor Sunshine Village, front row: Gina Kos (left) and Michelle Depelteau; back row: Peter Benton, Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos, Kelly Chmura, Maria Laflamme, Amie Miarecki, Colleen Brosnan, and Michael Siddal.

Tanzania Cannon-Ecklerle from event sponsor Royal, P.C. with Joe Ecklerle of Pelican Products and Brew Practitioners.

Tanzania Cannon-Ecklerle from event sponsor Royal, P.C. with Joe Ecklerle of Pelican Products and Brew Practitioners.

From 2018 Difference Maker Girls Inc. of Holyoke

From 2018 Difference Maker Girls Inc. of Holyoke, from left: Johana (Stella’s mother), Stella, Haley, Kylie (Haley’s mother), Emhanie, Brandy Wilson, Becky Bouchard, and Suzanne Parker.

Staff from NAI Plotkin turn out to celebrate 2018 Difference Maker Evan Plotkin.

Staff from NAI Plotkin turn out to celebrate 2018 Difference Maker Evan Plotkin.

Patrick O’Neil and Katie O’Neil from 2018 Difference Maker the WillPower Foundation.

Patrick O’Neil and Katie O’Neil from 2018 Difference Maker the WillPower Foundation.

Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos.

Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos.

Crystal Senter-Brown, left, and Suzanne Parker

Crystal Senter-Brown, left, and Suzanne Parker of Girls Inc. in Holyoke, both 2018 Difference Makers.

Bob Perry, retired CPA, a 2011 Difference Maker.

Bob Perry, retired CPA, a 2011 Difference Maker.

Kim Lee of the Center for Human Development.

Kim Lee of the Center for Human Development.

Evan Plotkin, president of NAI Plotkin, accepts his award as a 2018 Difference Maker.

Evan Plotkin, president of NAI Plotkin, accepts his award as a 2018 Difference Maker.

Will Burke, the namesake and inspiration for the WillPower Foundation, a 2018 Difference Maker.

Will Burke, the namesake and inspiration for the WillPower Foundation, a 2018 Difference Maker.

Stella and Emhanie, two of the girls from Girls Inc. of Holyoke, a 2018 Difference Maker.

Stella and Emhanie, two of the girls from Girls Inc. of Holyoke, a 2018 Difference Maker.

Bob Charland celebrates his 2018 Difference Maker award with fiancée Joanne Hansmann.

Bob Charland celebrates his 2018 Difference Maker award with fiancée Joanne Hansmann.

George O’Brien hands the 2018 Difference Maker award to Crystal Senter-Brown

BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien hands the 2018 Difference Maker award to Crystal Senter-Brown.

The WillPower Foundation

The WillPower Foundation’s Jeff Palm, Maria Burke, Sarah Aasheim, Will Burke, and Craig Burke accept their 2018 Difference Maker award from BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien (right).

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Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. announced that attorney John Glenn, senior counsel, retired on March 1 after a long and industrious legal career.

“Over the years, John’s wisdom, dedication, and friendship have made a lasting impact on every one of us here at Skoler Abbott,” said attorney Timothy Murphy, a partner at the firm. “His work has been invaluable in labor relations with his common sense and problem-solving approach. I speak for our clients as well as our team when I say we deeply appreciate and will miss John and his contributions.”

Over a career that spanned nearly 40 years, Glenn specialized in representing management in labor-relations matters. His practice focused on assisting clients in developing positive relationships with their workforces to decrease the likelihood of unionization. He has extensive experience working with employers during union campaigns, negotiating collective bargaining agreements, and representing employers at arbitration hearings before the National Labor Relations Board and at state and federal agencies.

Prior to joining Skoler, Abbott & Presser, Glenn was employed by the National Labor Relations Board in Cincinnati. He has also served as an adjunct professor of Labor Law at Western New England College School of Law. For many years, he has been included in Best Lawyers in America and has been named a Super Lawyer by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, which recognizes the top 5% of the lawyers in specific practice areas in the Commonwealth.

Outside of his legal practice, Glenn often worked with young men recently released from prison to assist them with acquiring life and academic skills to enhance their employment opportunities. He now looks forward to spending more time playing tennis, watching college basketball, and continuing to take challenging biking and hiking trips throughout the country and around the world.

Modern Office Sections

Playing by the Rules

John Gannon

John Gannon says putting a policy in writing isn’t enough — an employer then needs to follow it — but it’s a first step in showing a company takes workplace law and ethics seriously.

Most companies, especially larger ones, have employee handbooks that detail everything from vacation time to reasons for termination. Yet, too many are content to draft a handbook and shelve it for years, never reviewing it for changes in the regulatory landscape or confusing or contradictory language. In the ever-changing world of employment law, those are mistakes that can prove costly in more ways than one.

An employee handbook isn’t a contract, nor is it a legally binding document. But in a legal proceeding, it helps to have one.

Take, for instance, the case of an employee suing a company for allowing a culture of sexual harassment — a particularly timely example.

“In court, the first thing the judge will ask is to see the company’s policy,” said John Gannon, partner with Skoler, Abbott & Presser. “If your response is ‘we don’t have one,’ that suggests the employer doesn’t care about harassment and discrimination in the workplace. And that’s really getting off on the wrong foot in the event you’re sued for harassment or discrimination.”

The #MeToo revolution has certainly sent HR departments scrambling to make sure their policies on that issue are up-to-date, clear, and enforced. But if they’re smart, said the attorneys BusinessWest spoke with, they’re also regularly reviewing all sorts of policies that govern workplace rules and expectations — from disciplinary procedures to time off — and, hopefully, including them in an employee handbook.

“Every company that has employees should have a handbook,” said Daniel Carr, an associate with Royal, P.C. in Northampton. “But we use the term ‘handbook’ loosely; there’s no requirement that they have to be bound in a single document. It could mean whatever collection of policies you have, as long as it’s applied to all employees.”

Even if the employee signs a statement that he has read and understands the handbook, that doesn’t create contractual rights, Carr explained, noting that Massachusetts is, after all, an at-will state when it comes to hiring and firing, and an employee can be terminated for any reason that is not explicitly illegal, such as discrimination.

“I can’t tell you how many cases we’ve seen where the employee claims his termination was a violation of his contract. When asked, ‘what contract?’ they argue the employee handbook is a contract. It’s not.”

Gannon agreed. “One of the nice thigns about a handbook is that you can reaffirm the principle that everyone is an at-will employee,” he explained. “That’s why it’s really important, if you’re going to have a handbook, it should make it clear this is not a binding contract, your employment is at-will, and we can change the terms of the handbook and your employment relationship at any time with or without notice.”

So, if it’s not a contract, what is a handbook, and why should employers have one — and take it seriously?

“A handbook is a collection of policies, an ever-living document that can be changed at any time by an employer with or without notice,” said Mary Kennedy, partner with Bulkley Richardson in Springfield. “The purpose of a handbook is to give information to employees about expectations at work.”

Employers use the policies in an employee handbook as a sort of roadmap to both the treatment of employees and, conversely, expectations for their behavior. They protect themselves from lawsuits, such as harassment claims, wrongful termination claims, and discrimination claims. Employee handbooks generally contain a code of conduct for employees that sets guidelines around appropriate behavior for the individual workplace.

Mary Kennedy says the first goal of a handbook is to lay out clear expectations for workplace behavior.

Mary Kennedy says the first goal of a handbook is to lay out clear expectations for workplace behavior.

Under Massachusetts law, for companies with at least six employees, part of that collection of expectations must be policies reflecting the state’s own guidelines governing sexual harassment, accommodations for pregnant workers, sick leave, and other issues — many of which have changed recently.

Other contents should typically include policies governing discipline, rules of behavior, when and how to take time off, sick-time guidelines, how much vacation and personal time employees get, when they are paid, and what health benefits are available and how to access them.

The contents of any handbook vary from industry to industry, Gannon noted. For instance, the time an employee clocks in may be more important on the manufacturing floor than in an office setting, while safety guidelines for construction workers will be different than those for accountants.

“It’s an inexact science, and obviously no handbook is foolproof, and you can’t account for every possible contingency,” Carr said. “There may be at times you have to deviate from it. Certainly, you don’t want to be hemming yourself in to something you can live up to. As an employer in an at-will state, you have the right to set the policies. The handbook is more about setting expectations than setting hard and fast rules.”

Law and Order

The benefits of having a handbook fall into two buckets, Gannon said: The legal obligations governed by state and federal employment law, and basic HR practices that aren’t necessarily required by the law.

For the latter, written policies must make it clear to the employee what the employer’s expectations are.

“If you do need to discipline an employee, if you need to write them up or suspend them, you never want an employee to turn around and say, ‘wait a minute, I didn’t know I was going to get written up if I was absent more than three times in a month.’ Or, ‘I didn’t know it was a violation of your company policy to raise my voice at a meeting’ — whatever the case may be. A handbook sets expectations.”

It also provides guidelines to managers so they can treat employees fairly and consistently, he added. If the policy is clear, it can be applied to everyone across the board. If not, one supervisor may write someone up for a violation, while another supervisor doesn’t. That leads to inconsistency and, sometimes, hot water in court.

“Inconsistent application of your rules can lead to a lot of legal problems if the employee challenges the reason for his or her reason for separation from employment,” Gannon said, adding that the actual enforcement of the rules is more important than what a handbook says, “but if you don’t have, at minimum, a written policy, you have a big risk of inconsistent enforcement of your work rules.”

Kennedy said having clear policies in the handbook is the first step when defending a claim of wrongful termination in court.

“If you have a no-show policy where, after three violations, the employee is terminated, and it’s in writing and the employee was told it applies to all employees, and the employer can show it was uniformly applied to all employees, then the employer has a better shot at defending itself.

“For example, if a bank teller continually makes mistakes on the line and keeps coming up short, that’s certainly not beneficial for the employer,” she explained, so a written policy outlining the consequences of coming up short multiple times would be reasonable. “Whereas, if the bank said, ‘we don’t like people with red hair,’ well, that’s different.”

Supervisors and managers, Gannon said, typically appreciate a hard-and-fast policy because it’s something they can fall back on. He recalls one client whose employee showed up to work intoxicated, and at first, his supervisor didn’t know what to do. “Fortunately, they had a policy that made it clear, if you detect someone is under the influence, this is what you should do. It helped the supervisor navigate what his options were. Without that, they’re left wondering what to do.”

Communicating the policy to employees is just as important, Kennedy said, whether it’s a physical document passed out, with the employee signing an acknowledgement of receipt, or an electronic document distributed through the company intranet, or, for a larger business, explaining new policies in a meeting and making a list of who attended. “You certainly want to give it out when onboarding people, and then when there are any changes in policy.”

Even progressive discipline can be altered if the employer can prove the action is reasonable, Carr said — again, going back to the at-will concept. “If the handbook says a first violation is a verbal warning, the second is a written warning, third is probation, and fourth is termination, you have the right to revise that if someone commits a terminable offense the first time out.”

Trouble Spots

With all the protections a handbook may provide, Gannon said, some pitfalls do exist. One is trying to put everything in a handbook.

“The more words you have in the handbook, the less likely an employee is going to read it all,” he noted. “Sometimes I’ll see one that’s 120 pages long. I’m not sure any handbook needs to be that long.”

A smarter option, he said, is to include a short, two-paragraph summary of each policy, directing the employers to ask a particular person, maybe someone in human resources, if they need a more detailed explanation.

“Another mistake is not getting it reviewed enough,” he added. “It’s great to have a handbook — most employers do — but sometimes they get stale. You don’t want to have a policy that’s outdated, or you don’t want a handbook that misstates the law, because there are often changes in the law.”

For example, on April 1, Massachusetts employers will be required to have a policy that adheres to the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. “You need to review your handbook — it doesn’t necessarily have to be annually, but I would say every two or three years — just to make sure you’re not missing anything and there haven’t been changes in the law that would require rewording a policy.”

In a union shop, Kennedy said, employers want to make sure the handbook gels with the collective bargaining agreement, but even in a non-union shop, certain written policies may run into conflict with rulings from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). A few years ago, several companies made news by terminating workers for complaining about their job on social media — and took their cases to court, where they won.

“Social media has become the equivalent of the so-called water cooler,” Carr said, noting that the NLRB has long protected the rights of employees to discuss the terms and conditions of their employment, even in a public forum. However, the composition of the board has changed under President Trump and may be less willing to side with employees in all such matters.

“A few years ago, handbook provisions that restricted employees’ right to discuss terms and conditions of employment were considered overbroad — that was all the rage for awhile,” Gannon said. “New administration has scaled some of that back. With all the ebbs and flows in the world of employment law, you need to make sure the handbook stays up to date with those changes.”

Kennedy agreed. “Employment law changes on a regular basis, so handbook policies should be reviewed on a regular basis, to make sure they contain up-to-date language.”

Still, amid all the talk of violations and firings, Gannon said, the greatest value of a handbook is in its power to prevent some of those incidents in the first place.

“If an employee knows what can potentially lead to discipline, I think the employee is less likely to engage in that behavior,” he told BusinessWest. “That’s one of the really nice things about a handbook — it sets out what your expectations are. The goal of discipline is not to create a path that justifies termination. The goal of discipline is to correct behavior so that somebody can stay with the company for a long time and be a valued contributor to the group.”

To that end, he continued, “if you do need to discipline, it’s easier to explain why when you can point to handbook and say, ‘look, this is company policy, and you violated it. Sorry, but I have to write you up.’”

Turn the Page

That said, a handbook also helps with a company’s defense is they are sued, Gannon noted.

“If an employee claims they were fired because of a protected characteristic, it’s the employer’s burden to demonstrate to a judge or jury that, no, this is the real reason this person was fired. It’s nice to be able to point to a policy in a handbook that makes it clear this is why the employer took a particular action, that it wasn’t an arbitrary decision one supervisor just came up with. The company considered this particular issue, went to the extent of drafting a handbook putting this policy in place and having the employee sign off on it, and there’s an expectation the policy is going to be followed.”

Carr, who told BusinessWest he has drafted or reviewed “many, many handbooks,” emphasized, however, that a good policy holds up in court only if the employer actually enforces that policy uniformly and consistently.

“Otherwise, it’s just empty rhetoric. Sexual harassment is a perfect example, and a timely one,” he said.

Elaborating, he said virtually every company has an anti-sexual-harassment policy, and one of the tenets of sexual-harassment law is the question of whether an employer knew about, or should have known about, the alleged violations. “If the employee can show the employer was not diligent about enforcing their own policies, it creates the impression they dropped the ball and should have known.”

It’s a lesson many companies continue to learn the hard way.

Simply put, Kennedy said, “what’s bad about having a handbook is if you don’t follow it.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Company Notebook Departments

Baystate Academy Charter Public School Wins Grant

SPRINGFIELD — Baystate Academy Charter Public School received a grant to offer high-quality science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs from Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a nonprofit organization that provides a transformative learning experience for K-12 students and teachers through pathways in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science. More than 10,500 schools across the country offer PLTW programs to millions of students. According to Tim Sneed, executive director of Baystate Academy, “these funds will allow us to expand our biomedical sciences programs as we prepare students to enter the field of healthcare.” Baystate Academy is just one of 73 schools across the Commonwealth to receive the grant, which is supported by the Baker-Polito administration, the One8 Foundation, and Mass STEM Hub. “It is essential that we engage our students throughout their K-12 school years with hands-on lessons in science, engineering, computer science, technology, and math,” said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. Baystate Academy will use grant funds to strengthen its PLTW program with biomedical science. Funds from the grant will also support teacher professional development and the purchase of materials and equipment that will be used in the hands-on, activity-, project-, and problem-based courses. “We are proud to partner with Baystate Academy to empower students to develop the in-demand knowledge and transportable skills to thrive in our evolving world,” said Vince Bertram, PLTW president and CEO.

Molding Business Services Announces Acquisition of Gros Executive Recruiters

FLORENCE — Molding Business Services of Florence has acquired Gros Executive Recruiters of Franklin, Tenn. Both firms provide recruiting and executive search services to the plastics industry. Molding Business Services (MBS) was founded in 1998, and during those 20 years, its recruiting division has focused almost exclusively on the injection-molding segment of the plastics industry. Gros Executive Recruiters was founded in 1989 and serves the packaging, plastics-processing, and plastics-machinery markets. MBS brings a deeper injection-molding network to Gros, while Gros provides MBS with penetration into the packaging and plastics machinery markets. Additionally, merging the two already-extensive industry databases produces a network of talent that will benefit the combined firms’ clients. Together, MBS and Gros have recruiting staff located across the U.S., in Massachusetts, Illinois, Tennessee, Vermont, and California. “The synergies between the two firms are numerous, and our visions and goals couldn’t be better aligned,” said MBS President Jonathan Soucy. “We are excited about enhancing our reach and capabilities for our clients, especially at a time when the demand for talented individuals in our industry has reached critical levels.” Former Gros Executive Recruiters owner and industry veteran Dennis Gros has been appointed president of the combined recruiting business. “The combination of MBS’s recruiting division and Gros Executive Recruiters is great news for hiring managers and for professionals who seek a career change,” he said. “In combining our resources, we will offer new programs designed to energize hiring in the plastics industry.” Gros Executive Recruiters will become the sole recruiting brand of the combined entity and will operate as a molding business services company.

Radiothon Raises $245,367 for Children’s Hospital

SPRINGFIELD — Generous donors pledging their support of Baystate Children’s Hospital resulted in a grand total of $245,367 raised during this year’s 17th annual 94.7 WMAS Radiothon, which ran March 6-7. “The tremendous response from listeners to the 94.7 WMAS Radiothon is a testimonial to our talented staff of caregivers who are dedicated to improving the lives of children throughout the region,” said Dr. Charlotte Boney, chair, Pediatrics, Baystate Children’s Hospital. “It takes a team effort to hold a successful Radiothon even before the first telephone rings. We couldn’t do it without the many listeners who called in to pledge their support to our Children’s Hospital, or without the assistance of the volunteers, corporate sponsors, Baystate staff, and the Kellog Krew at 94.7 WMAS who all gave so generously of their time.” There is still time to make a donation to Baystate Children’s Hospital by visiting the Radiothon webpage at www.helpmakemiracles.org/event/wmas or texting WMASkids to 51555.

AIC Named to Military Friendly Schools List

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has been named to the list of “Better for Veterans” organizations across the country, earning the 2018 Military Friendly School designation by Victory Media, publisher of G.I. Jobs. Now in its 16th year, the Military Friendly Schools list provides a comprehensive guide for veterans and their families using data sources from federal agencies, veteran students, and proprietary survey information from participating organizations in order to help them select the best college, university, or trade school to receive the education and training needed to pursue a civilian career. Institutions earning the Military Friendly School designation were evaluated using both public data sources and responses from a proprietary survey completed by the school. For the first time, student survey data was taken into consideration for the designation. More than 1,300 schools participated in the 2017-18 survey, with 849 earning the designation. “American International College is proud to assist those men and women who serve our country,” said AIC President Vince Maniaci. “The college recognizes the value of the many educational and leadership experiences that occur in the Armed Forces, and the excellent foundation that military experience provides. In turn, we give veteran students transfer credits for service in the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard, helping service members and veterans get a head start on earning their degrees.”

New Prosthetic Center Serves Amputees with Innovative Technology

SPRINGFIELD — O & P Labs recently opened the doors to the 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. Co-owners Jim Haas and Blaine Drysdale hosted Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and state Rep. Carlos González, along with team members, patients, medical care providers, friends, and family for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Feb. 15. González presented a citation to recognize O & P Labs’ “30 years of healthcare service to the people of Springfield, Mass. and your innovative assistance for patients to enjoy productive lives.” The grand-opening event honored the 700 patients with limb loss who have been served over the last ten years since Haas and Drysdale have owned the company. The decision to create this full-service practice space was in direct response to the needs of these patients. “I used to ride a bike [before my amputation], and I still do,” said Drysdale, a certified prosthetist. “We are dedicated to helping every patient through their individual process. That includes before, during, and after an amputation.” The state-of-the-art Prosthetic Center features real-life experiences including a bike trainer, ramp, solo step track system, parallel bars, private rooms, and more. “Our facility does not feel like a white-coat clinic,” Haas added. “We’re here to help people get on with their lives. We strive to empower our patients to reach their similar activity level as prior to limb loss and feel part of a community while doing it.”

Report: HCC Benefits Economy Significantly

HOLYOKE — Students who graduate from Holyoke Community College (HCC) with an associate degree will see an average increase in annual earnings of about $10,000 a year compared to those with only a high-school diploma, according to a new report that calculates the total economic impact of HCC on the Pioneer Valley at nearly $215 million annually. “By comparison,” the report says, “this contribution that the college provides on its own is almost as large as the entire arts, entertainment, and recreation industry in this area.” The analysis of HCC’s economic value was conducted by Emsi, an economic modeling firm whose clients include colleges and universities as well as some of the largest for-profit corporations in the U.S., such as Amazon and Coca-Cola. For this, Emsi based its conclusions on academic and financial reports from HCC, industry and employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, and other surveys related to education and social behavior. The study, commissioned by the college, looked at data from 2015-16. For fiscal year 2016, which ended June 30, 2016, the study found that the total economic impact of the college on the economy in the three counties of the Pioneer Valley (Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin) was $214.6 million, or about 0.7% of the region’s gross regional product. That number includes direct spending by the college’s 991 full-time and part-time employees as well as operational spending by the college itself, and accounts for a multiplier effect, which measures how that money works its way through the regional economy. The total also includes short-term construction projects and spending by students who relocate to the Pioneer Valley as well as spending by students who choose to remain in the area for college rather than go elsewhere. In FY 2015-16, HCC served 8,243 credit students and 3,024 non-credit students. The largest impact, though, comes from alumni — former students who continue to live and work in the region: $155.1 million, or enough to support 2,642 jobs, the report notes. The study also examined the economic benefits of HCC from a student’s perspective, noting that those who complete their associate degree could expect to earn an average of $9,600 more per year than those with only a high-school diploma. Put another way, for every $1 students invest in their education (out-of-pocket expenses, interest on loans, foregone income while in school), they will earn $3.2, an average return of 12.7%. The study also concludes that HCC represents a “a solid investment” for taxpayers, generating more in tax revenue than it takes in through state and local funding — $54.6 million compared to $31.6 million, or a benefit-cost ratio of 1.8, an average rate of return of 4.5%. Massachusetts also benefits as a whole from the presence of HCC in two major ways: increased prosperity from an expanding economic base and savings generated by the improved lifestyles of students, most notably in a reduction in medical costs through improved health, reduced crime, and lower employer contributions toward unemployment.

Country Bank Donates $656,000 to Area Organizations in 2017

WARE — Country Bank reported that it donated $656,000 to more than 400 organizations in 2017 through its Charitable Giving Program. Some of the recipients include the Ronald McDonald House, which received $30,000 to support its ‘home away from home’ for children and their families being treated at the Springfield area medical facilities, and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, which received $10,000 to help continue its mission of providing food to those in need. “Our mission is to grow mutually beneficial relationships with our customers, community, and staff. This is evidenced not only by our commitment to support these organizations with charitable contributions, but also with staff volunteer hours,” said Paul Scully, president and CEO. “In 2017, nearly 800 hours of personal time was given back by members of the Country Bank staff to their local communities. In addition to their volunteer hours, employees also raised more than $33,000 through their own charitable-giving events such as jean days, bake sales, and raffles.

The United Arc Hosts Annual Coffee & Conversation Event

TURNERS FALLS — On Feb. 23, the United Arc held its annual Coffee & Conversation event, an opportunity for legislators in Western Mass. to hear the stories of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. This year, the Coffee & Conversation event brought together experiences in seeking full community inclusion, from the joys of work to struggles against bullying and for full access to education, to the process of gaining acceptance at school and extracurricular activities. One of the speakers was Tonya Lanpher, parent of a child with autism and a family support specialist at the United Arc. “I think the hardest thing is that people just don’t understand,” she said. “If we can help people understand, then we can create full community inclusion. People don’t understand each other if they don’t spend time together. That’s why full community inclusion is so important.” Event attendees included U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern; state Sen. Stan Rosenberg; state Reps. Steve Kulik and Solomon Goldstein-Rose; Jon Gould, aide to state Sen. Adam Hinds, and Chris Cappucci, research director for state Rep. Paul Mark. They shared their thoughts on full community inclusion and the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The event was co-sponsored by the Greater Athol Area Advocates for Families with Special Needs, and First Light Power Resources was a supporting sponsor. Other sponsors included 2nd Street Baking Co., Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters, and Greenfield Savings Bank. John Howland, CEO of Greenfield Savings Bank, and Linda Ackerman, assistant vice president and branch manager of the Greenfield Savings Bank Turners Falls branch, were also in attendance. Founded in 1951, the United Arc provides services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, helping them achieve the universal goals of inclusion, choice, and independence.

Finck & Perras Reports Community Investments

EASTHAMPTON — Genevieve Brough, president of Finck & Perras Insurance Agency Inc., recently announced that the firm invested roughly $40,000 in the wider community through sponsorships and donations to nonprofits in 2017. Organizations the company supported range from youth sports and recreation programs in Hampshire County to Riverside Industries in Easthampton, Link to Libraries, and the Children’s Advocacy Center of Hampshire County. Brough passes on her philanthropic values to employees, encouraging them to take part in community activism and fund-raising. Finck & Perras has supported the United Way of Hampshire County for 19 years, for instance, encouraging employees take part in making regular donations by offering various incentive programs. Other organizations Finck & Perras supported in 2017 include the Academy of Music Theatre, Northampton; the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, Springfield; Pathlight, Springfield; TedXEasthamptonWomen; Safe Passage, Northampton; the Northampton Family Fourth Celebration; Nonotuck Community School Inc., Northampton; Cooley Dickinson Health Care, Northampton; and Look Memorial Park, Florence.

Berkshire Bank Foundation Grants Nearly $2M in 2017

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank announced that its foundation awarded a total of $1,995,462 in grants to nonprofit organizations operating in the bank’s footprint in 2017. The grants supported a variety of education and community-development initiatives as well as health, human-service, and cultural programs. In all, 556 organizations benefited from the funding. “Our grants impacted more than 5.8 million individuals in 2017 helping to enhance economic opportunities and improve the quality of life for members of our community,” said Lori Gazzillo, senior vice president and foundation director. The foundation offers multiple grant programs, each with their own guidelines, programmatic criteria, and desired outcomes. In 2018, the foundation will again accept proposals for education programs that help individuals become college-, career-, and job-ready. They also plan to accept proposals for economic-development programs that create thriving places to live, work, and raise a family. Applications for these grant programs are due by April 1, July 1, and Oct. 1. In addition to these two programs, the foundation will offer two requests for proposals focusing on nonprofit capacity and basic needs. Additional details about the foundation’s guidelines and application process can be found online at www.berkshirebank.com/giving.

Phillips Insurance Funds Scholarships to American Legion Boys State

CHICOPEE — Phillips Insurance Agency Inc. announced it is funding three scholarships to the 2018 American Legion Boys State at Stonehill College in June. The one-week, overnight program focuses on understanding one’s responsibilities and rights in the democratic process. Participants establish a mock government, complete courses in economics, and participate in elections. Founded in 1935, past participants include some of the most prominent names in the country, including former President Bill Clinton, movie critic Roger Ebert, and basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan. Joseph Phillips, president of Phillips Insurance, noted that “my son Connor attended Boys State in 2016 and had a positive experience, so we decided to reach out … and provide the same opportunity to other students so they could benefit from this unique program and help prepare them for college and beyond.”

Briefcase Departments

Employer Confidence
Strengthens in February

BOSTON — Massachusetts employer confidence strengthened during February as optimism about long-term economic growth outweighed a volatile month in the financial markets. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index rose 0.4 points to 64.5, setting another 17-year high. The Index has gained 2.4 points during the past 12 months as confidence levels have remained comfortably within the optimistic range. Enthusiasm about the U.S. and Massachusetts economies, along with a bullish outlook on the part of manufacturers, fueled the February increase. At the same time, hiring remained a red flag as the BCI Employment Index fell 4 points between February 2017 and February 2018. Almost 90% of employers who responded to the February confidence survey indicated that the inability to find skilled employees is either a modest, large, or huge problem. “Fourteen percent of respondents said finding employees represents a huge problem that is hampering their company’s growth. One-third of employers see employee recruitment as a big problem, while 29% see it as a modest issue,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. “For the short-term, however, the state and national economies remain strong, and the recent announcement by Amazon of a major expansion in Boston indicates that the trend should continue.” The survey was taken before President Donald Trump roiled the financial markets by pledging to impose stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009. It has remained above 50 since October 2013. The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index were mixed during February. The most significant gains came in the Manufacturing Index, which surged 3.9 points to 66.2, and the U.S. Index, which rose 2.1 points for the month to 66.9 and 8.0 points for the year. The Massachusetts Index fell 0.4 points to 68.5, but was up 5.3 points for the year and still higher than the national outlook for the 96th consecutive month. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, rose 2.4 points to 64.1. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, declined 1.6 points to 65. The Current Index has risen 4.2 points and the Future Index 0.6 points during the past 12 months. The Company Index, reflecting employer views of their own operations and prospects, was essentially flat, gaining 0.1 points to 62.4. The Employment Index also rose 0.1 points, to 56.4, versus 60.4 in February 2017. Manufacturing companies (66.2) were more optimistic than non-manufacturers (61.9). Large employers (69.8) were more bullish than medium-sized (62.0) or small businesses (62.7).

Single-family Home Sales
in Pioneer Valley Up in January

SPRINGFIELD — Single-family home sales rose by 17.2% in the Pioneer Valley in January compared to the same time last year, while the median price rose 1.0% to $197,000, according to the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley. In Franklin County, sales were up 27.0%, while the median price fell 2.1% from a year earlier. In Hampden County, sales were up 26.2%, while the median price was up 8.8%. In Hampshire County, sales fell by 5.6% from January 2017, while the median price was up 1.2%.

Advertising Club Seeks
Nominations for Pynchon Award

SPRINGFIELD — The Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts is seeking nominations from throughout Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire counties for the Pynchon Award, which recognizes citizens of the region who have rendered distinguished service to the community. The Order of William Pynchon was established by the Advertising Club in 1915 to recognize and encourage individuals whose lives and achievements typified the ideals of promoting citizenship and the building of a better community in Western Mass. Past recipients include war heroes, social activists, teachers, volunteers, philanthropists, historians, clergy, physicians, journalists, public servants, and business leaders — a diverse group, each with a passion for the region and a selfless streak. A complete list of recipients since 1915 can be found at www.adclubwm.org/events/pynchonaward. To nominate an individual, submit a one-page letter explaining why the nominee should be considered. Include biographical information, outstanding accomplishments, examples of service to the community, organizations he or she is or has been active in, and the names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of at least three people who can further attest to the nominee’s eligibility for induction into the Order of William Pynchon. All nominees will be considered and researched by the Pynchon Trustees, comprised of the current and five past presidents of the Advertising Club. Nominations must be submitted by Friday, March 30 to: William Pynchon Trustees, Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts, P.O. Box 1022, West Springfield, MA 01090 or by e-mail to [email protected] Pynchon medalists are chosen by unanimous decision of the Pynchon Trustees. 2018 recipients will be announced in June 2018, with an awards ceremony scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 18 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke.

Unemployment Rate Holds
at 3.5% in Massachusetts

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate remained at 3.5% in January, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts lost 6,100 jobs in January. Over the month, the private sector lost 4,200 jobs; although gains occurred in professional, scientific, and business services; information; and other services. From January 2017 to January 2018, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 29,000 jobs. The January unemployment rate was six-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 4.1% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Massachusetts continues to experience a low unemployment rate and labor force expansions,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta said. “While the overall health of our economy remains strong, and 2017 marked the eighth consecutive year of job growth, persistent skills gaps remain. That is why our workforce-development partners remain committed to ensuring that those who are still unemployed or underemployed have access to the training resources they need to access high-demand jobs.” The labor force increased by 2,200 from 3,657,300 in December, as 3,900 more residents were employed and 1,700 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased four-tenths of a percentage point from 3.9% in January 2017. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — remained at 65.3%. The labor force participation rate over the year has decreased by 0.2% compared to January 2017. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in construction; leisure and hospitality; professional, scientific, and business services; and other services.

Hampden County Bar Assoc.
Offers Two Law-school Scholarships

SPRINGFIELD — The Hampden County Bar Assoc. is now accepting applications for the John F. Moriarty Scholarship and the Colonel Archer B. Battista Veterans Scholarship. The John F. Moriarty Scholarship is available to any Hampden County resident who has been admitted to or is attending a certified law school for the 2018-19 academic year. Applicants must have been residents of Hampden County for at least five years. The application deadline is May 25. The Colonel Archer B. Battista Veterans Scholarship is available to any veteran with an honorable discharge or a current member of the U.S. military who has been admitted to or is attending a certified law school in New England for the 2018-19 year. The application deadline is May 15, 2018. Both scholarships are based on merit and financial need. Both applications and additional information are available by contacting the Caitlin Glenn at the Hampden County Bar Assoc. at (413) 732-4660 or [email protected], or by visiting www.hcbar.org/news/scholarships.

Chamber Corners Departments

1BERKSHIRE
www.1berkshire.com
(413) 499-1600

• March 21: Chamber Nite, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Lee Bank, 75 North St., Pittsfield. Bring your business card to enter to win our door prize. Register online at www.1berkshire.com.

• March 28: Career Fair, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., hosted by Berkshire Community College, Paterson Field House, 1350 West St., Pittsfield. Get in front of Berkshire-based businesses at this annual event. Connect with employers looking to hire. You may also choose to exhibit, and recruit new employees, grow your business, and get in front of hundreds of job seekers. The event is free and open to the public. If you are interested in exhibiting or attending, visit www.1berkshire.com.

• April 18: Good News Business Salute, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by Berkshire Hills Country Club, 500 Benedict Road, Pittsfield. Join us for our morning breakfast, where we will honor members and announce the winner of this year’s Esther Quinn Award. Cost: $35-$45. Register online at www.1berkshire.com.

• April 26: Creative Resources Conference, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., hosted by Stationery Factory, 63 Flansburg Ave., Dalton. The format has three tracts, with a total of nine workshops for creatives, entrepreneurs, and small businesses. More information to come. Register online at www.1berkshire.com.

AMHERST AREA
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.amherstarea.com
(413) 253-0700

• April 26: Margarita Madness, 5:30-7:30 p.m., hosted by Lord Jeffery Inn, 30 Boltwood Ave., Amherst. Come taste margaritas and vote for your favorite. There will also be delicious dishes from participating restaurants and dozens of great raffle prizes. Cost: $30 pre-registered, $40 at the door. Register online at www.amherstarea.com.

FRANKLIN COUNTY
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.franklincc.org
(413) 773-5463

• April 20: Monthly Breakfast Series, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by Greenfield High School, 21 Barr Ave., Greenfield. Full breakfast will be served during the program, which will feature an Entrepreneur of the Year panel. Sponsored by Franklin County Community Development Corp. and the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board. Cost: $13 for members; $16 for non-members. Register at franklincc.org or by e-mailing [email protected]

• April 26: Business After Hours, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center, 289 Main St., Greenfield. Networking event with special guest Sue Dahling Sullivan from Massachusetts ArtWeek. Come kick off the debut of ArtWeek in Western Mass. Refreshments and cash bar will be available. Cost: $10. Register at franklincc.org or by e-mailing [email protected]

GREATER CHICOPEE
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.chicopeechamber.org
(413) 594-2101

• March 21: St. Patrick’s Day Salute Breakfast, 7:15-9 a.m., hosted by the Delaney House, 1 Country Club Road, Holyoke. Chief greeter: John Beaulieu, city of Chicopee and St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee. Keynote speaker: Sean Cahillane, Irish Cultural Center. Sarah the Fiddler will perform. Sponsored by United Personnel, Westfield Bank, Holyoke Medical Center, Polish National Credit Union, Gaudreau Group, Sunshine Village, Spherion Staffing Services, and PeoplesBank. Cost: $23 for members, $28 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• April 3: Chamber Seminar: “Pay Equity,” presented by Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast, 9-11 a.m, hosted by La Quinta Inn & Suites. Sponsored by Westfield Bank. Cost: $20 for members, $25 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• April 11: Multi-chamber Table Top Expo: “A Taste of Commerce,” 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by Bartley Center at Holyoke Community College. Table fee of $150 includes table, two entrance passes, a light supper, and parking. Admission: free with pre-registration only, $15 at the door. Sign up at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• April 19: Business After Hours: A Salute to the ’70s Disco Party, 4:30-6:30 p.m., hosted by Ohana School of Performing Arts. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• April 24: B2B Speed Networking, 8-9 a.m., hosted by Chicopee Boys and Girls Club. For more information, visit chicopeechamber.org/events.

• April 25: Salute Breakfast at the Moose Family Center: “Easy, Cost-neutral Sustainability for Businesses,” 7:15-9 a.m. Chief Greeter: Phil Norman, CISA. Keynote: Center for EcoTechnology. Sponsored by United Personnel, Westfield Bank, Holyoke Medical Center, Polish National Credit Union, Gaudreau Group, Sunshine Village, Spherion Staffing Services, and PeoplesBank. Cost: $23 for members, $28 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

GREATER EASTHAMPTON
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.easthamptonchamber.org
(413) 527-9414

• March 27: “Strength-based Leadership” featuring Colleen DelVecchio, certified Clifton Strengths Coach. The second of a two-part series (see Feb. 27 listing above). For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call the chamber office at (413) 527-9414.

• April 4: Networking by Night, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Suite3 in the Mill 180 Building, 180 Pleasant St., Easthampton. Sponsored by Suite3. Take your connection building to the next level when we partner with the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce on this Networking by Night event. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for future members. For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call the chamber office at (413) 527-9414.

• April 11: Multi-chamber Table Top Expo: “A Taste of Commerce,” 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by Bartley Center at Holyoke Community College. Friends and colleagues can come together for new networking opportunities and new features such as Made in Mass., Minute Clinic, and Food for Thought. Admission: free with online registration, $15 at the door. Table space is still available. For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call the chamber office at (413) 527-9414.

GREATER HOLYOKE
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.holyokechamber.com
(413) 534-3376

• March 21: Chamber After Hours, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Slainte Restaurant, 80 Jarvis Ave., Holyoke. Sponsored by Expert Staffing. Meet up with your business associates for networking and food. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Sign up online at holyokechamber.com. Call the chamber at (413) 534-3376 if you would like to bring a door prize or if you’re interested in a marketing table for $25.

• April 4: Women in Leadership Series, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., hosted by HCC Culinary Arts Institute, 164 Race St., Holyoke. Join us April through July to learn from area CEOs while networking with your peers from the region. An elegant lunch prepared by students from the Holyoke Community College Culinary Arts program will provide the setting, which will create the opportunity for a meaningful dialogue on some key leadership issues for those building their careers. Each month your table will join one of the region’s leading CEOs.

• April 11: Multi-chamber Table Top Expo: “A Taste of Commerce,” 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by Bartley Center at Holyoke Community College. Presented by the Greater Holyoke, Greater Chicopee, Greater Easthampton, Greater Northampton, South Hadley/Granby, and Quaboag Hills chambers of commerce. Vendor tables cost $150. Admission: no charge with advance registration, $15 at the door. This event sells out. Call (413) 534-3376 or your local chamber to reserve a table.

• April 18: Chamber After Hours, 5-7 p.m., sponsored and hosted by Fairfield Inn & Suites, 229 Whiting Farms Road, Holyoke. Meet up with your friends and business associates for a little networking. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Feel free to bring a door prize. Sign up online at holyokechamber.com.

• April 20: Economic Development Breakfast, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by Holyoke Community College, Kittredge Center, PeoplesBank Conference Room. Learn from EMPATH about how to break the cycle of poverty and utilize the bridge to self-sufficiency theory to approach economic mobility. EMPATH helps low-income people achieve long-term economic mobility, and has developed a holistic approach to mentoring backed by the latest brain science that busts through silos and combats chronic stress. Event emcees are Mary Coleman, EMPATH; Dr. Christina Royal, Holyoke Community College; and Kathleen Anderson, Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce. Cost: $25 for members, $30 for non-members and walk-in guests.

GREATER NORTHAMPTON
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.explorenorthampton.com
(413) 584-1900

• April 4: April Arrive @ 5, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Suite3 in the Mill 180 Building, 180 Pleasant St., Easthampton. Sponsored by Applied Mortgage, H&R Block, and MassDevelopment. A networking event. Cost: $10 for members.

• April 11: Protecting Your Data from Security Risks, 9-11 a.m., hosted by Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. CyberSafe is a two-hour workshop for non-technical users that focuses on using technology without compromising personal or organizational security. Students will learn the skills they need to protect digital data on computers, networks, mobile devices, and the Internet. They will learn how to identify many of the common risks involved in using technology, such as phishing, spoofing, malware, and social engineering, and then learn how to protect themselves and their organizations from those risks. Pre-registration is required, and space is limited. Cost: $25 for members, $35 for non-members. To register, visit goo.gl/forms/pX8YUuC25YdMsLjD2.

• April 11: Multi-chamber Table Top Expo: “A Taste of Commerce,” 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by Bartley Center at Holyoke Community College. A networking event. Cost: $150 for a table for members, $225 for a table for non-members, $10 walk-in fee for members.

GREATER WESTFIELD
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.westfieldbiz.org
(413) 568-1618

• April 2: April Mayor’s Coffee Hour, 8-9 a.m., hosted by the Arbors, 40 Court St., Westfield. Join us for our monthly Mayor’s Coffee Hour with Westfield Mayor Brian Sullivan. Event is free and open to the public. Register online at www.westfieldbiz.org so we may give our host a proper count. For more information, call Pam at the chamber at (413) 568-1618.

• April 11: WE2BA High School Career Fair, 7:45-11:30 a.m., hosted by Westfield State University at the Woodward Center, 395 Western Ave., Westfield. Don’t miss the chance to help shape our future through workforce development in our community. Join us to help inspire Westfield High School and Westfield Technical Academy students with career exploration. More than 400 students will be in attendance. We are looking for 75 vendors to participate. The vendor tables are free. Register online at www.westfieldbiz.org. For more information, call Pam at the chamber at (413) 568-1618.

• April 11: April After 5 Connection, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Betts Plumbing & Heating Supply Inc., 14 Coleman Ave., Westfield. Refreshments will be served. A 50/50 raffle will benefit the chamber scholarship fund. Bring your business cards and make connections. Cost: free for members, $10 for non-members (cash or credit paid at the door). Register online at www.westfieldbiz.org. For more information, call Pam at the chamber at (413) 568-1618.

• April 24: Home & Business Community Marketplace & Tabletop Event, 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by the Ranch Golf Club, 65 Sunnyside Road, Southwick. An opportunity to market and sell your products and services to area residents and businesses. Sip and shop your way through the marketplace with a beer and wine tasting, live music, and a chance to vote for your favorite nosh at the food court. Cost: $50 for vendor rental space (table not included; bring your own, six feet or less with tablecloth), $75 for vendor table (includes six-foot table; bring your own tablecloth). Attendance is free to the public. For more information, contact Southwick Economic Development at (413) 304-6100.

SOUTH HADLEY & GRANBY
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.shgchamber.com
(413) 532-6451

• March 28: Educational Breakfast: “Tax Law Changes for Businesses,” 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by South Hadley Public Library, 2 Canal St., South Hadley. This presentation by Thomas Foley, a experienced CPA who specializes in business taxes, will present the new tax-law changes that will impact businesses of every size beginning this year. There will be a light breakfast. This event is free of charge and open to the community. For further information and to register, visit www.shgchamber.com or call the chamber office at (413) 532-6451.

• April 11: Multi-chamber Table Top Expo: “A Taste of Commerce,” 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by Bartley Center at Holyoke Community College. This business networking and marketing event, now in its 24th year, will provide business professionals and entrepreneurs an opportunity to promote their businesses — to “strut their stuff.” Tables are available for $150. Admission is free if you pre-register with the chamber or $15 at the door. Whether you plan to be a participating vendor or want to simply attend, go to www.shgchamber.com for more information or to register, or call (413) 532-6451.

• April 19: Business After 5, 4:30-6:30 p.m., hosted by Ohana School of Performing Arts, 470 Newton St., South Hadley. Sponsored by Berkshire Hills Music Academy. This Everything 70’s Disco Party is a networking event for members and friends of the chamber. We are joining with the Greater Chicopee Chamber of Commerce on this event, so there will be many new business colleagues to meet and greet over the three floors of studio space. The event will feature music, food, beverages, and dancing. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. For further information and to register, visit www.shgchamber.com or call the chamber office at (413) 532-6451.

• April 22: Mohegan Sun bus trip, 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Proceeds support the chamber’s scholarship fund and its two community Councils on Aging. There are bonuses on food and other pluses included in the cost. Bus departs from and returns to the former Big Y parking lot at 501 Newton St. Cost: $35. For further information and to register, visit www.shgchamber.com or call the chamber office at (413) 532-6451.

• April 24: An Educational Breakfast: “Cybersecurity: What We All Need to Know,” 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by PeoplesBank and Loomis Village, 20 Bayon St., South Hadley. We will learn how cybersecurity impacts our own lives, both personally and professionally. The presentation will be led by Joseph Zazzaro, senior vice president, Information Technology, and David Thibault, first vice president, Commercial Banking at PeoplesBank. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. For further information and to register, visit www.shgchamber.com or call the chamber office at (413) 532-6451.

SPRINGFIELD REGIONAL CHAMBER
www.springfieldregionalchamber.com
(413) 787-1555

• March 20: C-Suite Conversations & Cocktails, 5-7 p.m., hosted by CityStage, One Columbus Center, Springfield. Members-only event featuring MGM President Mike Mathis. Cost: $25. For reservations, visit www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, e-mail [email protected], or call (413) 755-1310.

• March 29: Speed Networking, 3:30-5 p.m., location to be determined. Cost: $20 for members in advance ($25 at the door), $30 general admission in advance ($35 at the door). For reservations, visit www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, e-mail [email protected], or call (413) 755-1310.

WEST OF THE RIVER
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.ourwrc.com
(413) 426-3880

• April 4: Wicked Wednesday, 5-7 p.m., hosted by CHD Cancer House of Hope, West Springfield. Wicked Wednesdays are monthly social events, hosted by various businesses and restaurants, that bring members and non-members together to network in a laid-back atmosphere. For more information about this event, contact the chamber office at (413) 426-3880, or register online at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

• April 12: Networking Lunch, noon to 1:30 p.m., hosted by Lattitude, West Springfield. Must be a member or guest of a member to attend. Enjoy a sit-down lunch while networking with fellow chamber members. Each attendee will get a chance to offer a brief sales pitch. The only cost to attend is the cost of lunch. Attendees will order off the menu and pay separately that day. We cannot invoice you for these events. Register online at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

• April 26: Coffee with Agawam Mayor Sapelli, 8:30-10 a.m., hosted by Agawam Senior Center Coffee Shop, 954 Main St., Agawam. Join us for a cup of coffee and a town update from Mayor Bill Sapelli. Questions and answers will immediately follow. For more information, contact the chamber office at (413) 426-3880 or [email protected]

YOUNG PROFESSIONAL SOCIETY
OF GREATER SPRINGFIELD
springfieldyps.com

• April 19: YPS Third Thursday: “Career Development & Networking,” 5-7 p.m., hosted by Lattitude Restaurant, 1338 Memorial Ave., West Springfield. Cost: free for YPS members, $10 for non-members.

Daily News

BOSTON — Massachusetts employer confidence strengthened during February as optimism about long-term economic growth outweighed a volatile month in the financial markets.

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index rose 0.4 points to 64.5, setting another 17-year high. The Index has gained 2.4 points during the past 12 months as confidence levels have remained comfortably within the optimistic range.

Enthusiasm about the U.S. and Massachusetts economies, along with a bullish outlook on the part of manufacturers, fueled the February increase. At the same time, hiring remained a red flag as the BCI Employment Index fell 4 points between February 2017 and February 2018. Almost 90% of employers who responded to the February confidence survey indicated that the inability to find skilled employees is either a modest, large, or huge problem.

“Fourteen percent of respondents said finding employees represents a huge problem that is hampering their company’s growth. One-third of employers see employee recruitment as a big problem, while 29% see it as a modest issue,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. “For the short-term, however, the state and national economies remain strong, and the recent announcement by Amazon of a major expansion in Boston indicates that the trend should continue.”

The survey was taken before President Donald Trump roiled the financial markets by pledging to impose stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009. It has remained above 50 since October 2013.

The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index were mixed during February. The most significant gains came in the Manufacturing Index, which surged 3.9 points to 66.2, and the U.S. Index, which rose 2.1 points for the month to 66.9 and 8.0 points for the year. The Massachusetts Index fell 0.4 points to 68.5, but was up 5.3 points for the year and still higher than the national outlook for the 96th consecutive month.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, rose 2.4 points to 64.1. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, declined 1.6 points to 65. The Current Index has risen 4.2 points and the Future Index 0.6 points during the past 12 months.

The Company Index, reflecting employer views of their own operations and prospects, was essentially flat, gaining 0.1 points to 62.4. The Employment Index also rose 0.1 points, to 56.4, versus 60.4 in February 2017.

Manufacturing companies (66.2) were more optimistic than non-manufacturers (61.9). Large employers (69.8) were more bullish than medium-sized (62.0) or small businesses (62.7).

Sections Workforce Development

Rolling the Dice

Diane Garvey

Diane Garvey, frustrated in her search for a sales position, has started down a much different career path, and was one of the first to sign up for classes at MCCTI.

Diane Garvey was at a career crossroads. In a big way.

In her 50s, she had spent most of her career working at call centers, as an office manager, and mostly in sales positions, specifically in the candy business, supplying retailers with everything from M&Ms to Russell Stover samplings.

Her most recent position had been eliminated in a restructuring last August, and she spent the next several months in a decidedly futile search for something else. By late last year, with her unemployment benefits winding down, her stop at the crossroads ended, sort of, and she started down a road previously not available to her and one she probably couldn’t have imagined last July.

That would be the Massachusetts Casino Career Training Institute, or MCCTI, an acronym that is quickly working its way into the region’s workforce lexicon and into the vocabulary of people like Garvey.

She was on the ninth floor of 95 State St. in downtown Springfield last Monday, taking the first of six weeks of classes that will likely earn her an audition with MGM Springfield, the $950 million casino going up next door, and perhaps a job on the casino floor by early summer, a few months before the sprawling complex is set to open.

“I was unable to relocate into a different position, so I looked at what was available,” she explained. “With MGM coming to the area and all the publicity they’ve had lately and their reputation for being number one in the entertainment business, maybe the best plan would be to go to the dealer class.”

There are roughly 70 people signed up for the first set of classes at MCCTI, a joint venture of Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College and part of the schools’ hugely successful TWO (Training and Workforce Options) program, which has created training programs to qualify individuals for work in several fields.

For each one of those students, the story is a little different, even though they’ve chosen the same path. Some, like Garvey, are unemployed and looking toward the casino as a place to relaunch their careers. Others are retired or near retirement and looking for something part-time to help fill the day and put a little money in their pocket. Others have some experience working table games in casinos and look upon MGM Springfield as a way to parlay that experience into a job with one of the leading gaming and entertainment companies in the world.

Orlando Marrero can check that last box, and as he talked about what brought him to the ninth floor for the evening class of MCCTI, he borrowed an industry term.

“I rolled the dice,” Marrero, who has a seasonal job delivering propane, told BusinessWest, not once, but several times as he discussed his decision to relocate to the City of Homes and essentially position himself for a job with MGM Springfield when it opens.

With his experience, Marrero probably faces slightly better odds than many of the other students at MCCTI, but all those enrolled stand a good chance of winning a jackpot, in the form of a job, if they are diligent and also passionate about mastering what Alex Dixon, general manager of MGM Springfield, called a “craft.”

“Sometimes people think that you have to know or like table games or like casinos to get into this,” he explained. “This is a craft, and it’s a skill, and with a small investment, you can really become skilled for the rest of your life. As long as you can pass an audition, you’re employable, and these jobs are in high demand.”

Dixon said the casino will need roughly 450 table-games workers and poker dealers when the casino opens, and he admits that MGM has its work cut out for it to not only meet that number but succeed with a much larger goal — sustainability.

“We have our work cut out for us,” he told BusinessWest. “And this is ongoing; we’re looking forward to developing a long-term pipeline of people in Western Mass. who want to choose an opportunity with us.”

For this issue and its focus on workforce development, BusinessWest talked with Marrero and Garvey about their decision to enroll in MCCTI, and with Dixon and others about the many challenges involved with having the casino floor fully staffed by opening night.

Playing the Numbers

With this pipeline-building test in mind, MGM Springfield has taken a number of steps designed to generate interest in the school and prompt more people across that broad spectrum described above to consider careers in table games.

An instructor works with students of all ages on the first day of classes at MCCTI.

An instructor works with students of all ages on the first day of classes at MCCTI.

These include options when it comes to how many games one wishes to learn, flexibility in the scheduling of classes (they run morning, afternoon, and night); similar flexibility when it comes to hours of employment (there are full- and part-time jobs and several shifts); and even reimbursement of the tuition cost.

Still, with all those incentives and flexibility, creating a large, talented corps of table-games workers in an area new to the casino industry will be a daunting challenge, said Dixon.

But he’s hoping, and expecting, that some of the first students to enter the pipeline — people like Garvey and Marrero — will become effective spokespeople, if you will, and help in the recruiting effort.

This is exactly what happened at MGM’s property in Maryland, National Harbor, which opened just over a year ago. There, a school similar to MCCTI and operated in conjunction with Prince George’s (County) Community College, was instrumental in helping that facility staff up with table-games workers.

“In many cases, our best recruiting tool will be our current students,” he explained. “They can certainly help people understand that this is an opportunity; if you’re a recent retiree or you’re currently employed and are looking to pick up a couple of shifts a week, just about anyone with a good attitude can do this.”

Marrero hasn’t even been hired yet, and he’s already helping in this regard, with comments like these when asked about why he was looking forward to returning to the casino floor — sometime soon, he hopes.

“This is what I like doing,” he explained. “I like interacting with the customers; we have a good time. I have a ball when I’m dealing.”

Marrero was a dealer for several years at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods. He relocated to Western Mass. so his wife could take a job here, and he has taken odd things (like delivering propane) since. He first contacted Holyoke Community College with inquiries about a dealer school about three years ago, and was one of the first to sign up for the initial cohort of classes.

“I haven’t been a dealer for seven years, and wanted to refresh myself,” he explained, “so I can work at the new casino.”

Overall, Marrero fits just one of many profiles that TWO administrators are seeing in the group signed up for the first cohort that started on Feb. 26, said Jeff Hayden, vice president of Business and Community Services at Holyoke Community College.

He told BusinessWest that students come in all age groups and with a host of different backgrounds. Some signed up looking for a new career; others arrived on the ninth floor at 95 State St. hoping to find something new, different, and fulfilling to do in their retirement.

Orlando Marrero is an experienced dealer who enrolled at MCCTI to refresh his skills and learn more games.

Orlando Marrero is an experienced dealer who enrolled at MCCTI to refresh his skills and learn more games.

“So far, we’ve had a good response, but we’re always looking for more people,” said Hayden. “We’re seeing a mix that reflects the region; we’ve had a significant number of people who have some experience and are looking for a refresher course, or they know two games and want to know four games.

“We’ve had more women than men, but the men are primarily the ones with the prior experience,” he went on. “Some are unemployed, but many others are employed, but feel they’re underemployed or in a dead-end position. Still others are looking for something new and different, and MGM appeals to them.”

Dixon told BusinessWest that widely diverse student bodies are typical at these so-called ‘dealer schools,’ which exist even in areas, like Las Vegas and Atlantic City, where the gaming industry has a huge presence. That’s because table-games workers will often seek to add to their skills by mastering new games or by refreshing themselves on ones they already know, perhaps with the goal of winning a supervisory position.

In markets like Greater Springfield, however, a larger number of students are being introduced to these games — and to careers in gaming.

Hayden said that students essentially sign on for a 10-week block of classes. The first six weeks are spent on a so-called ‘level 1’ class in either blackjack, roulette, craps, or poker. A student would then take a four-week ‘level-2’ class in everything from mini baccarat to pai gow poker to follow-up sessions in blackjack, roulette, and craps.

Successfully completing classes for two or more games guarantees the student an audition with MGM, said Hayden, adding that, if a student were so inclined, they could sign up for two 10-week blocks and learn three or four games, thus likely improving their odds for employment and perhaps advancement.

Those auditions could come as early as mid-spring, said Dixon, noting that MGM Springfield will begin hiring experienced table-games workers in April and early May, and will likely start the hiring process with the first MCCTI graduates around that same time, meaning they could be on the payroll by June.

With that timetable, Diane Garvey will likely need an extension of her unemployment benefits to get by — something individuals can apply for and something that is often granted to those enrolled in training programs like MCCTI.

She told BusinessWest that she didn’t come to her decision to enroll in these classes quickly or easily. Instead, after much consideration, she decided that this seemed like the most logical path to take from the crossroads she arrived at, and maybe the best fit.

“I would have interaction with people, which is what I liked most about sales,” she explained. “And to be in an exciting environment like MGM … I thought that would be good for me as well. It looked like an opportunity I wanted to pursue.”

Improving Their Odds

While each student currently enrolled at MCCTI has a different story and a different perspective, there is a common denominator: they all use that word ‘opportunity.’

They see MGM and a job on the casino floor as a chance to add a missing piece — whether that piece is a career that’s not at a dead end or a part-time position that can add an intriguing wrinkle to retirement.

In both cases and a host of others that fall somewhere in between, it’s an opportunity. And to seize that opportunity, many are doing just what Orlando Marrero decided he had to do.

Roll the dice.

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

Departments People on the Move
Christine Devin

Christine Devin

Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C. announced the promotion of Christine Devin, CPA, to manager in its Audit and Accounting department. In her new position, Devin will be responsible for the management of audit and review engagements for the firm’s not-for-profit, commercial, and pension clients. In addition, she will assist with the management of the not-for-profit niche, which encompasses the supervision and training of staff, client relations, firm protocol, and regulatory updates. She rejoined MBK in 2015 as a senior associate. With nine years of experience as a controller of a closely held business and more than eight years of public accounting experience, Devin combines a deep understanding of the operations, financial reporting, and regulatory requirements of the private sector with the technical expertise of a CPA. Devin received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Elms College. She is a member of the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

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Katie Longley

Katie Longley

Elms College appointed accomplished higher-education finance executive Katie Longley the college’s new vice president of Finance and Administration. Reporting to the president, Longley, who will join Elms on March 26, will be responsible for the strategic oversight and management of the college’s financial resources and operations. She comes to Elms from Abilene Christian University in Texas, where she currently serves as associate vice president of Finance. She held successive positions as controller, tax director, payroll manager, and senior accountant during her tenure with ACU. Prior to her work in higher education, Longley was in public accounting, working as an associate for PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, and then becoming a senior auditor for Davis, Kinard & Co. She holds a master’s degree in accountancy and a bachelor’s degree in business administration, both from Abilene Christian University. Longley fills the position vacated by Brian Doherty, who retired from the college earlier this year.

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Marcie Zimmerman

Marcie Zimmerman

Greenfield Savings Bank (GSB) promoted Marcie Zimmerman to Human Resources officer. In this role, she is responsible for the day-to-day management of HR, including benefits administration, employee relations, payroll, affirmative-action plan, recruiting, orientation, performance management, policy implementation, and employment-law compliance. Zimmerman joined GSB in 2009 and has worked in the field of human resources for more than 12 years. She holds a number of HR certifications, including Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), Society for Human Resources Management Certified Professional (SHRM-CP), and Certified Compensation Analyst (CCA).

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Jeanne Kosakowski

Jeanne Kosakowski

The Dowd Insurance Agencies announced that Jeanne Kosakowski has been hired as claims director. In this role, she handles some of the personal-lines claims, all of the commercial-lines claims, and oversees all claims. “Jeanne joins us with over three decades of insurance experience and demonstrated customer relations that will benefit our customers,” said John E. Dowd Jr., president and CEO. Kosakowski came to the Dowd Agencies from Hanover Insurance, where she was a commercial-lines product analyst. She received her bachelor’s degree from Russell Sage College in New York, where she was a Kellas Scholar. She is an Associate in Claims (AIC), a Certified Insurance Service Representative (CISR), and a Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC), and is currently working on her Certified Risk Manager (CRM) designation. Kosakowski, who was named an “outstanding instructor” for the Worcester County Insurance Institute, will be based in the Dowd Agencies’ home office in Holyoke.

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Elizabeth Dineen

Elizabeth Dineen

The board of trustees at Elms College appointed Elizabeth Dineen, executive director of the YWCA of Western Mass. in Springfield, as a new board member. Dineen has had a long career of community service, first serving as an assistant district attorney for 25 years prosecuting child sexual abuse and rape cases, then entering an academic career as the director of the Criminal Justice program at Bay Path University, and now at the YWCA, whose mission — “eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all” — is consistent with that of Elms College. Her legal career focused on helping the most vulnerable in the community, especially women and children who were the victims of sexually based and personal violence, and that focus has carried over into her work at the YWCA, which serves women and families at critical times in their lives. Dineen has served on the board of directors of Square One of Springfield, which provides early-education programs for children, since 2013. She previously served on the board of Mont Marie Child Care Center in Holyoke, and on the appropriations committee in East Longmeadow. Honors Dineen has earned throughout her career include the Governor’s Award for Service to the Commonwealth, the YWCA Woman of Achievement Award, Top Women of Law from Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, the first Justice Kent B. Smith Award from the Hampden County Bar Assoc., the City of Holyoke Mayor’s Certificate of Recognition, the Massachusetts Bar Assoc. Access to Justice Award as Prosecutor of the Year, and the Elms College Alumni Assoc. Distinguished Alumni Award.

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Nicholas D’Agostino

Nicholas D’Agostino

Holyoke Community College recently welcomed Nicholas D’Agostino as its new Affirmative Action officer and Title IX coordinator. D’Agostino comes to HCC after working for nearly 12 years as an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and Affirmative Action professional in Connecticut, most recently as the associate in Diversity and Equity at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) and before that as an EEO specialist with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families. He started at HCC on Jan. 29. A longtime advocate for equity and social justice with a focus on LGBTQ issues, D’Agostino has been an Anti-Defamation League anti-bullying trainer for more than 10 years and has a long association with True Colors, a support and advocacy group in Hartford for LGBTQ youth, which he has served as board president. He has either led or participated in hundreds of affirmative-action and discrimination investigations during his career. At CCSU, D’Agostino conducted awareness and advocacy programs, promoted social-justice initiatives, engaged the college community in sexual-harassment and assault prevention, and led training sessions on diversity, Title IX compliance, anti-racism, and LGBTQ awareness. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in federally funded education programs. D’Agostino holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Quinnipiac University and a master’s degree in counselor education with a specialization in student development in higher education from CCSU.

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Elizabeth Oleksak-Sposito

Elizabeth Oleksak-Sposito

Jeffrey Sattler

Jeffrey Sattler

The Springfield Technical Community College board of trustees recently welcomed two new members. Gov. Charlie Baker appointed Elizabeth Oleksak-Sposito and Jeffrey Sattler to serve on the board, an 11-member body that governs STCC. Oleksak-Sposito worked as a clinical care manager at Boston Medical Center Health Plan from 2012 until her retirement in 2016. She provided holistic medical-care-management services for plan members with chronic conditions and complex care needs. Prior to joining Boston Medical Center Health Plan, she worked as a medical case manager for Broadspire, a division of Crawford & Co. and provider of claims-management solutions to the risk-management and insurance industry. She previously worked as a sales specialist and account manager at Hill-Rom Home Care in Charleston, S.C. A certified case manager prior to her retirement, Oleksak-Sposito holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from American International College in Springfield and a diploma in nursing from the Cooley Dickinson Hospital School of Nursing in Northampton. Her term ends March 1, 2022. Sattler is senior vice president, Commercial Lending, at Savings Institute Bank & Trust. He is responsible for managing and growing the bank’s commercial-banking business, including lending, leasing, and deposit accounts throughout the Greater Springfield and Enfield, Conn. areas. He has more than 35 years of experience in commercial banking at various institutions in the region. Prior to joining Savings Institute Bank & Trust, Sattler served as president of NUVO Bank & Trust Co. (now known as Community Bank N.A.) He serves on the board of directors of Mason Wright Senior Living Community, Rotary Club of Chicopee, and the Western Massachusetts Boy Scouts of America. He is an associate member of the National Tool & Die Assoc. Sattler graduated from Springfield College with a bachelor’s degree in political science and history, with a minor in business administration. He also graduated from the ABA Commercial Lending Banking School at the University of New Hampshire. His term ends March 1, 2021.

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William Sharp

William Sharp

Freedom Credit Union (FCU), headquartered on Main Street in Springfield and serving members throughout Western Mass. through nine additional branches, announced the recent appointment of William Sharp as the new branch officer in Chicopee. Sharp has worked with financial institutions for 40 years, having held management positions within the banking industry prior to joining Freedom Credit Union in 2013. He is active within his community and has received several recognitions. He currently serves as board chair for the Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee, which awarded him the Dr. Edward Ryan Award for board service in 2016. That same year, the Greater Easthampton Chamber of Commerce, which he had served as treasurer, named him Ambassador of the Year. He also has served as board chair for the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board and, in 2003, was named Volunteer of the Year by the Chicopee Chamber of Commerce.

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Mary Russell

Mary Russell

The Dowd Agencies, LLC announced that Mary Russell has been hired as commercial lines account manager. “With nearly a decade of insurance experience, Mary’s expertise and commitment to customer service will benefit our customers,” said John E. Dowd Jr., president and CEO. As commercial lines account manager, Russell manages a roster of insurance clients and supports producers with a variety of initiatives. She came to the Dowd Agencies from a local agency, where she was a personal lines account manager. She received her associate degree in psychology from Holyoke Community College.

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Margaret (Meg) Beturne

Margaret (Meg) Beturne

Ruben Arroyo

Ruben Arroyo

The Gray House recently inducted two new board members to a three-year term. They were welcomed at the January board meeting by the president and officers of the board. The new board members are Margaret (Meg) Beturne and Ruben Arroyo. Remaining board officers are Kathleen Lingenberg, president; Susan Mastroianni, vice president; Janet Rodriguez Denney, clerk; and Candace Pereira, treasurer. Beturne is a professional nurse with extensive experience in perianesthesia, surgical, ambulatory and critical-care nursing and is the assistant nurse manager at the Baystate Orthopedic Surgery Center in Springfield. Previous positions include Nursing Clinical Operations manager of the Post Anesthesia Care Unit and staff nurse in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. She has served on several boards of directors, including the Children’s Study Home, the Ronald McDonald House of Springfield, the Elms College board of trustees, and the American Society of Perianesthesia Nurses. Arroyo is the Code Enforcement inspector for the Holyoke Board of Health and president of Arroyo Inc., an HVAC and home-improvement business. He is a deacon at his church, Iglesia Casa de Misericordia, and also involved with Iglesia Apostolica Cristiana Betzaida and the Christian radio broadcast station La Hora Zero 1490 AM.

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Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez

LUSO Federal Credit Union announced the appointment of Jennifer Lopez as its new Marketing manager. She will oversee the credit union’s Marketing Department staff and daily operations, including brand and product promotions, advertising, online activity, and other marketing efforts. Lopez is a seasoned marketing professional with more than 10 years of experience in media and marketing management in Western Mass. Most recently, she spearheaded the marketing and communications initiatives at Pope Francis High School in Chicopee. Prior to that, she was a reporter and editor for Turley Publications in Palmer, and worked as a content writer for Market Mentors in West Springfield. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Western New England University.

•••••

Country Bank President and CEO Paul Scully announced the promotions of Mark Phillips, Andrew Sullivan, Sarah Yurkunas, and Christine Witz. Phillips has been appointed to first vice president of Internal Audit. He has been with the bank for 23 years and is a certified internal auditor and certified bank auditor. He has more than 40 years in the financial-services industry in various positions, most recently director of Internal Audit. He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and an MBA from Nichols College, and is also a graduate of the National School of Banking. He and his wife, Lisa, actively support the Epilepsy Foundation and the Worcester County Food Bank. Sullivan has been promoted to small-business lending officer and has been with the bank for four years. He began his career as a staff auditor at Wolf & Co. in Springfield, where he worked for two years before joining Country Bank as a credit analyst. He has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and business management along with an MBA with a concentration in accounting from Elms College. In 2015, he started a charity golf tournament, Andrew Sullivan’s Swing for a Cure, to bring awareness to cystic fibrosis. Over the past three years, this event has raised more than $30,000. Sullivan is also a member of the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield and was recently selected to receive the Best in Bank award from Country Bank. Yurkunas has been promoted to commercial portfolio manager and has been with the bank for 11 years. She began her career at Country Bank in the loan-servicing area and then moved to a loan coordinator position, which inspired her to pursue her career in the commercial-lending area. Yurkunas has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from Bay Path University. She has also taken classes from the Massachusetts Bankers Assoc. and received a certification in Fundamentals of Credit Analysis: Intro to Commercial Lending. She volunteers many hours of her personal time to support the bank’s community programs and enjoys giving back to her community. Witz has been promoted to retail lending officer. She has been with the bank for seven years, most recently as the assistant branch manager in the Charlton office. She serves on the Buy Ware Committee.

Daily News

AGAWAM — At its [email protected] event on Wednesday, March 7, the Springfield Regional Chamber will host Jay Ash, state secretary of Housing and Economic Development, who will talk about “Unlocking Economic Development,” and his priorities to grow jobs, help communities realize their economic-development initiatives, connect citizens to new economic opportunities, and build prosperity across Massachusetts.

The event takes place from 7:15 to 9 a.m. at Chez Josef, 176 Shoemaker Lane, Agawam. The cost is $25 for members ($30 at the door), or $35 general admission ($40 at the door).

Ash is responsible for directing and executing Gov. Charlie Baker’s agenda on housing and community development, job creation, business development, consumer affairs, and business regulation. He previously served as city manager in his native Chelsea, a position he held from 2000 to 2014. In Chelsea, Ash’s leadership produced both economic expansion and fiscal stability. He grew the city’s housing stock by more than 10%, expanded its commercial base with two dozen major projects, led all Gateway Cities with a 15% increase in new employment, developed 10 new parks, secured five credit-rating increases, and won two All-American designations for Chelsea.

In his current role, Ash has led statewide initiatives on health insurance, youth violence, transportation infrastructure, and expanded gaming in Massachusetts.

To make a reservation, visit www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, e-mail [email protected], or call (413) 755-1310.

Difference Makers

Honorees since the first class of 2009

2018:

Bob Bolduc, CEO of Pride Stores
Bob “The Bike Man” Charland, Founder of Pedal Thru Youth
Girls Inc. of Holyoke
Evan Plotkin, President of NAI Plotkin
Crystal Senter-Brown, Author & Adjunct Faculty at Bay Path University
WillPower Foundation

2017:

The Community Colleges of Western Massachusetts; Berkshire Community College, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, Springfield Technical Community College
•    Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round
•    Denis Gagnon Sr., President & CEO of Excel Dryer Inc.
•    Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts
•    Joan Kagan, President & CEO of Square One.

2016:

•    Hampden County Sheriff Michael J. Ashe Jr.
•    Mike Balise, Balise Motor Sales, Philanthropist (1965-2015)
•    Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire Counties
•    Bay Path University President Carol Leary
•    John Robison, president, J.E. Robison Service

2015:

•    Katelynn’s Ride
•    Judy Matt, president of Spirit of Springfield
•    MassMutual Financial Group
•    The ownership group of the Student Prince and the Fort
•    Valley Venture Mentors

2014:

•    The Gray House
•    Colleen Loveless, executive director of the Springfield chapter of Rebuilding Together
•    The Melha Shriners
•    Paula Moore, founder of YSET Academy and a teacher at Roger L. Putnam Vocational Training Academy
•    Michael Moriarty, attorney, director of Olde Holyoke Development Corp., and supporter of childhood literacy programs

2013:

•    Michael Cutone, John Barbieri, and Thomas Sarrouf, organizers of Springfield’s C3 Policing program
•    John Downing, president of Soldier On
•    Bruce Landon, president and general manager of the Springfield Falcons
•    The Sisters of Providence
•    Jim Vinick, managing director of Investments for Moors & Cabot Inc.

2012:

•   Charlie and Donald D’Amour, president/COO and chairman/CEO of Big Y Foods
•   William Messner, president of Holyoke Community College
•   Majors Tom and Linda-Jo Perks, officers of the Springfield Corps of the Salvation Army
•   Bob Schwarz, executive vice president of Peter Pan Bus Lines
•   The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts

2011:

•    Tim Brennan, executive director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
•    Lucia Giuggio Carvalho, founder of Rays of Hope
•    Don Kozera, president of Human Resources Unlimited
•    Robert Perry, retired partner/consultant at Meyers Brothers Kalicka
•    Anthony Scott, Holyoke police chief

2010:

•    The Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation
•    Ellen Freyman, attorney and shareholder at Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin, P.C.
•    James Goodwin, president and CEO of the Center for Human Development
•    Carol Katz, CEO of the Loomis Communities
•    UMass Amherst and its chancellor, Robert Holub

2009:

•    Doug Bowen, president and CEO of PeoplesBank
•    Kate Kane, managing director of the Springfield office of Northwestern Mutual Financial/the Zuzolo Group
•    Susan Jaye-Kaplan, founder of GoFIT and co-founder of Link to Libraries
•    William Ward, executive director of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County
•   The Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield

Difference Makers

Honorees since the first class of 2009

2018:

Bob Bolduc, CEO of Pride Stores
Bob “The Bike Man” Charland, Founder of Pedal Thru Youth
Girls Inc. of Holyoke
Evan Plotkin, President of NAI Plotkin
Crystal Senter-Brown, Author & Adjunct Faculty at Bay Path University
WillPower Foundation

2017:

The Community Colleges of Western Massachusetts; Berkshire Community College, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, Springfield Technical Community College
•    Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round
•    Denis Gagnon Sr., President & CEO of Excel Dryer Inc.
•    Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts
•    Joan Kagan, President & CEO of Square One.

2016:

•    Hampden County Sheriff Michael J. Ashe Jr.
•    Mike Balise, Balise Motor Sales, Philanthropist (1965-2015)
•    Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire Counties
•    Bay Path University President Carol Leary
•    John Robison, president, J.E. Robison Service

2015:

•    Katelynn’s Ride
•    Judy Matt, president of Spirit of Springfield
•    MassMutual Financial Group
•    The ownership group of the Student Prince and the Fort
•    Valley Venture Mentors

2014:

•    The Gray House
•    Colleen Loveless, executive director of the Springfield chapter of Rebuilding Together
•    The Melha Shriners
•    Paula Moore, founder of YSET Academy and a teacher at Roger L. Putnam Vocational Training Academy
•    Michael Moriarty, attorney, director of Olde Holyoke Development Corp., and supporter of childhood literacy programs

2013:

•    Michael Cutone, John Barbieri, and Thomas Sarrouf, organizers of Springfield’s C3 Policing program
•    John Downing, president of Soldier On
•    Bruce Landon, president and general manager of the Springfield Falcons
•    The Sisters of Providence
•    Jim Vinick, managing director of Investments for Moors & Cabot Inc.

2012:

•   Charlie and Donald D’Amour, president/COO and chairman/CEO of Big Y Foods
•   William Messner, president of Holyoke Community College
•   Majors Tom and Linda-Jo Perks, officers of the Springfield Corps of the Salvation Army
•   Bob Schwarz, executive vice president of Peter Pan Bus Lines
•   The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts

2011:

•    Tim Brennan, executive director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
•    Lucia Giuggio Carvalho, founder of Rays of Hope
•    Don Kozera, president of Human Resources Unlimited
•    Robert Perry, retired partner/consultant at Meyers Brothers Kalicka
•    Anthony Scott, Holyoke police chief

2010:

•    The Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation
•    Ellen Freyman, attorney and shareholder at Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin, P.C.
•    James Goodwin, president and CEO of the Center for Human Development
•    Carol Katz, CEO of the Loomis Communities
•    UMass Amherst and its chancellor, Robert Holub

2009:

•    Doug Bowen, president and CEO of PeoplesBank
•    Kate Kane, managing director of the Springfield office of Northwestern Mutual Financial/the Zuzolo Group
•    Susan Jaye-Kaplan, founder of GoFIT and co-founder of Link to Libraries
•    William Ward, executive director of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County
•   The Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield

Daily News

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Savings Bank (GSB) promoted Marcie Zimmerman to Human Resources officer. In this role, she is responsible for the day-to-day management of HR, including benefits administration, employee relations, payroll, affirmative-action plan, recruiting, orientation, performance management, policy implementation, and employment-law compliance.

Zimmerman joined GSB in 2009 and has worked in the field of human resources for more than 12 years. She holds a number of HR certifications, including Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), Society for Human Resources Management Certified Professional (SHRM-CP), and Certified Compensation Analyst (CCA).

Features

Storm Surge

Rosa Espinosa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ileana Cintrón


Iileana CintrÓn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Call Goes Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living Wage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Up

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

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

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

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

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Opinion

Opinion

By Steven Kravetz and Patricia Crosby

The news will tell you the unemployment rate is down just about everywhere, and Massachusetts is no exception. Currently, the official rate in the state-designated Franklin Hampshire workforce-development area, which includes the two counties plus the North Quabbin region, is 2.7%, a level economists call ‘full employment,’ since there is always a certain amount of churn in the labor market, with some people leaving jobs and other people entering them.

A cause for celebration, right? And why not save some state and federal dollars by reducing funds now for public employment services and using them to address some more urgent critical need?

There are many good reasons we should be more guardedly optimistic and cautious in our response to those labor-market numbers.

First, if you’re one of the 3,659 local citizens in that 2.7% — someone abruptly laid off through no fault of your own, unable to find a job even roughly equivalent in pay — then you’re not celebrating. Or if you’re someone who’s been unemployed for a long time due to inadequate skills, education, transportation, or childcare, then you’re not celebrating. In fact, a significant portion of both those groups of people eventually give up and don’t even identify themselves as looking for work anymore, getting by somehow, but barely. When they do that, they’re not represented in our official ‘low’ unemployment rate at all. They fall instead into an uncomfortably large and too-often-invisible portion of our population called ‘discouraged workers.’

Then there are the ‘under-employed’ and ‘mal-employed,’ people working two or even three low-wage jobs to hold a family together, or multiple part-time jobs when they’d rather be working full-time, or working in positions far below their appropriate skill and wage levels, representing a tremendous waste of talent in our economy. Bureau of Labor Statistics research suggests that the Massachusetts unemployment rate is as high as 7.4% if you factor those people in.

All these people need help — good, solid, professional employment assistance from experienced people with employment expertise, using a continuously-evolving array of strategies that keep up with the times and show people how to prepare for, search for, secure, and hold onto jobs that will support them and their families. With that kind of help, these dislocated, unemployed, under-employed, or discouraged workers get beyond those labels and become taxpaying contributors to the systems that once helped them.

It happens every day at places like the Franklin Hampshire Career Center in Greenfield and at 30-plus other career centers across the state. Even in ‘good’ times, there are people — as the above indicates, probably many, many more than one might think — who use these services successfully and gratefully.

But those services must be funded, in good times as well as bad. The Commonwealth has not increased its funding substantively for public one-stop career centers since the ‘stimulus’ year of 2008, The system receives less funding now — to support a much higher level of service, expertise, technology, and facilities — than it did in 2010. It cannot continue to provide the quality service that citizens across our region and others have a right to, without the state recognizing and appropriately supporting these career centers as the critical regional economic assets that they are.

Steven Kravetz is co-owner of the Arbors at Amherst. Patricia Crosby is executive director of the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board.

Employment Sections

Sidebar

Courtney Wenleder says she can see a number of parallels between the MGM Springfield development and the work to rebuild in Biloxi, Miss. after Hurricane Katrina.

Courtney Wenleder says she can see a number of parallels between the MGM Springfield development and the work to rebuild in Biloxi, Miss. after Hurricane Katrina.

Courtney Wenleder was working in Las Vegas, as financial controller for the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, in the summer of 2005 when she was asked to step in and assist another property in the MGM portfolio, the Beau Rivage Hotel and Casino in Biloxi, Miss.

She happened to be back in Vegas for some meetings when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the region several weeks after her arrival, but she’ll never forget the flight back to the area five days later on one of the company’s corporate jets that received special clearance to fly into the devastated area.

“Flying over Biloxi, you could see the blue tarps everywhere,” she said, adding that the casino complex itself was closed for exactly a year and had to rebuild just as the region around it did.

“The community saw us as a kind of beacon of hope,” she recalled. “We committed to rebuild right away; people lost their homes and their jobs, and we played a big role in the recovery.”

Wenleder related that story as she started to explain what brought her to Springfield late last summer and, more specifically, to the role of vice president and chief financial officer for MGM Springfield.

While Hurricane Katrina was an exponentially larger natural disaster than the tornado that carved a path through Springfield almost seven years ago now, Wenleder can see a number of parallels between the two calamities and the two regions, especially when it comes to the role a casino complex can play in a devastated region.

And also in how rewarding it can be to be a part of such efforts.

“That experience in Biloxi was more than a job, more than just being a CFO in a casino,” she told BusinessWest. “It was helping the community, giving them hope, rebuilding, working as a team.

“The team that we had down there was incredible,” she went on. “When you go through something like that, you bond instantly; there’s no time for niceties, and ‘let’s just develop this relationship’; you become connected quickly.”

While different from the experience in Biloxi in many ways — the disaster is years in the rear-view mirror, not days — Wenleder says she can find many parallels to her current role with another team, the one that will open the $950 million MGM Springfield in roughly six months.

That’s why, when Mike Mathis, president and COO of MGM Springfield, first approached Wenleder, then the VP of Finance and CFO at the New York New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, about coming to the City of Homes three years ago, she almost immediately started giving it some serious thought.

There were several reasons why she eventually said ‘yes.’ There was that opportunity to be part of another community comeback story, if you will, but also a desire to get back to the East Coast (she was born and raised in Virginia), and the chance to open a new facility.

“Springfield was a pretty easy sell,” she explained. “I was looking for change — I had been at New York New York for nine years and wanted a new challenge — and the opportunity to have a job that meant more than building a property and running the financials.”

Although those are, obviously, big parts of her job description, as we’ll see.

For this issue and its focus on employment, BusinessWest talked at length with Wenleder about her role at top level of the leadership team at MGM Springfield, and also about why, as she said, this particular job involves much more than running financials.

On-the-money Analysis

Wenleder, one of the first members of the executive team hired last year (see story, page 15), said those letters CFO usually come complete with a lengthy and varied job description.

That’s especially true in the casino industry, where operations such as MGM Springfield have a number of components, myriad expenses, and (eventually, in the case of MGM Springfield) several revenue streams.

But at the end of the day, the job here, as it does everywhere, comes down to making sure the expense side doesn’t exceed the revenue side. (Although, when it comes to the Springfield casino, we’re going to need that word ‘eventually’ again because, at the moment, there are no revenues).

There’s no end to the expenses, though, said Wenleder, who said she’s trying to manage them the best she can.

“It’s quite stressful when you only have one side of the ledger,” she said with a laugh. “Managing the budget is difficult, especially when things come up that you didn’t anticipate, and there are plenty of those.”

One of the most pressing items on Wenleder’s to-do list is putting her own team together. For several months she was a one-person show, but over the past several weeks there have been a number of additions to the finance team.

But most of the hiring is still to come, obviously, she said, adding that, by the time MGM Springfield is ready to open, that finance team will number between 150 and 200 people.

They will be spread out across a number of departments, she noted, including purchasing; warehouse and receiving; inventory control; financial planning and analysis; those working in ‘the cage,’ meaning those handling money; the ‘counts team,’ individuals who pull money out of the slot machines and table games; casino finance (a compliance role); and a small accounting team. (Payroll, accounts receivable, and other functions are handled out of corporate offices in Las Vegas.)

It’s a big job, with big numbers, such as a projected $90 million in annual payroll alone for the Springfield facility, said Wenleder, adding that she does not yet have a budget or updated revenue projections for either the short year ahead (2018) or the first full year of operation to follow.

But she’s working on it — just as she’s working on a whole host of other aspects of the casino operation.

Such as staffing. That is the focus of much of the activity at 95 State St., and the goal is to come up with the right numbers across each of the various departments. Talks are ongoing as to just how many will be needed within each department, she said, adding that the goal, quite obviously, is not to overstaff or understaff. “There’s a balance there, and it’s important to get the right numbers.”

Other day-to-day work includes everything from financial analysis on potential partners, such as retail tenants, the movie theaters, and bowling alley, to setting of internal control drafting procedures related to the minimum standards set by the Gaming Commission.

While handling all that, Wenleder is thinking about that ‘beacon of hope’ aspect to this casino operation, the element that links it many ways to Biloxi, those blue tarps she saw while flying overhead, and the rewarding work of helping a community bounce back from adversity.

“That’s the element to this I really enjoy — engaging the community, helping people find jobs and improve their lives, training them on new skills, and, hopefully, bringing more vibrancy to the area, because other businesses will come because we’re here. There is that ripple effect.”

Watching the Bottom Line

She’s seen that ripple effect first-hand, in Biloxi and in Las Vegas, of course.

And she’s quite confident that there will be one here as well, and being one of the key drivers of that ripple effect is just part of what made Springfield the easy sell she described.

There won’t be anything easy about getting the doors open come September, but Wenleder is, by all accounts (that’s an industry phrase) well on top of things, thanks to a wealth of experience with these balancing acts.

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

Employment Sections

The New Pay-equity Law

By John S. Gannon, Esq. and Amelia J. Holstrom, Esq.

John S. Gannon, Esq

John S. Gannon, Esq

Amelia J. Holstrom, Esq

Amelia J. Holstrom, Esq

This summer, Massachusetts will enact what many believe to be the most stringent pay-equity legislation in the country.

Back in August 2016, Gov. Charlie Baker signed “An Act to Establish Pay Equity,” which amends the state’s existing equal-pay law and goes into effect on July 1, 2018. The intent of the legislation is laudable; it is aimed at strengthening pay equity between men and women in the Commonwealth.

Studies show that, despite more than 50 years of pay-equity laws being on the books, a significant wage gap between men and women still exists. In order to try and narrow that gap, the new Massachusetts pay-equity law imposes rigorous equal-pay obligations on employers. The new law also prohibits certain pay-related conduct by employers, including asking applicants about past compensation.

With July 1 just around the corner, employers need to take a careful look at the law, its requirements, and what they should be doing right now to limit their legal liability.

What Is Comparable Work?

Employers have been prohibited from discriminating in the payment of wages between men and women who perform comparable work for decades. The current version of the law, however, does not define what ‘comparable’ means. As a result, the Massachusetts courts defined ‘comparable’ in a way that made it very difficult for employees to succeed on a pay-discrimination claim.

Specifically, the employee had to establish that the jobs “did not differ in content” and entailed “comparable skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions.” Many employers were successful defending pay-equity claims by showing that jobs “did not differ in content.”

The new pay-equity law defines ‘comparable work’ in a way that eliminates this “differ in content” requirement. This means that jobs may now be comparable for pay-equity purposes even though the job duties are different. The new law defines comparable jobs as those that involve “substantially similar skill, effort, and responsibility” and are performed under “similar working conditions.”

This language is broader than the test previously set forth by the courts, so it will likely lead to more favorable results for employees who file lawsuits under the amended act.

What If Employees in Comparable Jobs Are Paid Different Wages?

Some pay differences are permitted under the amended act, but they are very limited. Pay differences between persons performing comparable work are only acceptable if based upon: (1) a seniority system; (2) a merit system; (3) a per-unit or sales-compensation scheme; (4) geographic location of the job; (5) education, training, and experience, or; (6) the amount of travel required.

However, because the statute does not define these terms, employers have little guidance on how they might be interpreted and applied.

Employers who need to correct pay disparities may not reduce the salary of an employee in order to comply with the new law. Employers who have unexcused pay differentials will need to ‘level up’ and bring the pay of the lower earners up to the pay of the highest earner doing ‘comparable work.’

From Pay Equity to Pay Transparency

The amended act also prohibits employers from engaging in a common pay-related practice. Starting July 1, employers may not ask job applicants about their salary or wage history. Employers similarly cannot seek an applicant’s pay-history information from a current or prior employer.

As a result, employers must remove all questions regarding previous salary and wage-history information from their applications and train hiring managers not to ask prohibited questions.

Defense for Those Who Evaluate Pay Practices

There is one silver lining for employers. The new law provides an affirmative defense to employers who complete a “good-faith” self-evaluation of their pay practices and demonstrate “reasonable progress” toward eliminating any wage differentials.

This means employers who adequately audit their pay practices may avoid liability under the new law, but only if the employer’s self-evaluation is “reasonable in detail and scope in light of the size of the employer.”

Businesses should take advantage of this defense by formally auditing their pay practices before July 1, 2018, to ensure compliance with the new law. Employers who conduct an audit with an attorney can assert the attorney-client privilege with regard to all or some of the audit, which would protect it from disclosure during a lawsuit if the employer so desires.

With July 1 roughly four months away, employers need to begin making necessary changes to comply with the statute and strongly consider performing an audit to identify and address any already existing pay disparities. Attorneys may be eager to assert these claims due to the relaxed definition of comparable work and the potential for liquidated damages, attorney’s fees, and costs. So businesses need to be ready.

John S. Gannon is an attorney with Skoler, Abbott & Presser, LLC, one of the largest law firms in New England exclusively practicing labor and employment law. He specializes in employment litigation and personnel policies and practices, wage-and-hour compliance, and non-compete and trade-secrets litigation; (413) 737-4753; [email protected] Amelia J. Holstrom joined Skoler, Abbott & Presser in 2012 after serving as a judicial law clerk to the judges of the Connecticut Superior Court, where she assisted with complex matters at all stages of litigation. Her practice is focused in labor law and employment litigation; (413) 737-4753; [email protected]

Briefcase Departments

Employer Confidence Begins 2018 with Increase

BOSTON — Massachusetts employers began 2018 much the way they ended 2017 — with growing confidence in the economy and optimism about their own business prospects. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index rose a half-point to 64.1 during January, setting another 17-year high. The Index has gained 2.7 points during the past 12 months as employer confidence levels have remained comfortably within the optimistic range. Growing enthusiasm about the Massachusetts economy and a brightening outlook on economic conditions six months from now fueled the January confidence increase. At the same time, the hiring outlook remained muted as low unemployment and demographic shifts continued to impede the ability of employers to find the workers they need. The survey was taken prior to major declines in global financial markets during the past several days. “Rising confidence is not surprising in a state with 3.5% unemployment and an economy that grew at a 3.3% annual rate during the fourth quarter,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. “Economic output, job growth, and spending all rose at a healthy clip in Massachusetts during the final three months of the year, and economists expect modest growth to continue during the first half of 2018.” The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009. It has remained above 50 since October 2013. The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index were mixed during January. The most significant gain came in the Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth, which rose 1.3 points to 68.9. The Massachusetts Index has gained 3.7 points in the past two months, 5.5 points year over year, and now stands at its highest level since November 2000. The U.S. Index of national business conditions also continued a yearlong rally by gaining 0.6 points to 64.8. January marked the 95th consecutive month in which employers have been more optimistic about the Massachusetts economy than the national economy. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, decreased a point to 61.7, while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, surged 2.1 points to 66.6. The Current Index has risen 2.1 points and the Future Index 3.3 points during the past 12 months. The Company Index, reflecting employer views of their own operations and prospects, rose slightly, gaining 0.2 points to 62.3. The Employment Index was essentially flat, leaving it 2.1 points below its level of January 2017. Non-manufacturing companies (66.6) were more optimistic than manufacturers (62.3). Large employers (67.2) were more bullish than medium-sized companies (62.7) or small businesses (63.5). “The strong Future Index readings signal that employers anticipate steady growth during the first two quarters of 2018. The only fly in ointment remains the prospect that labor shortages may constrict the ability of companies to grow and expand,” said Paul Bolger, president, Massachusetts Capital Resource Co., and a BEA member. AIM President and CEO Richard Lord, also BEA member, said 2018 brings with it significant risk for employers as progressive groups push ballot questions that could create a $1 billion paid family and medical leave program, impose a punitive tax on many small businesses, and raise the state minimum wage to $15 per hour. “The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will today hear arguments in a challenge that I and four other business leaders filed to the constitutionality of the income surtax question,” Lord noted. “Meanwhile, the business community is seeking common ground on a compromise paid-leave proposal that will not harm the economy.”

Home Sales in Pioneer Valley Post Gains in 2017

SPRINGFIELD — Single-family home sales posted gains in both volume and price last year, according to the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley, with total sales up 1.7% from 2016 to 2017, and median price up 4.5%. In Franklin County, sales were up 3.0% in 2017, and median price up 2.3%. In Hampden County, sales rose 3.6%, and median price saw a 5.5% gain. However, in Hampshire County, sales were down 3.4%, though median price rose 4.1%.

Departments People on the Move
Eric Polep

Eric Polep

J. Polep Distribution Services announced the promotion of Eric Polep to president and CEO, reporting to Chairman of the Board Jeffrey Polep. “Eric has proven time and again he understands how to grow with the industry and as the business dictates. He represents J. Polep with pride, and his everyday goal is to make sure each customer and vendor sees the outcome of long-term success, which is the foundation to our business,” said Jeffrey Polep, also Eric’s father. J. Polep Distribution Service is the fifth-largest convenience wholesaler in the U.S., exceeding $1.5 billion in sales. The locally owned and operated business posted a 30.1% increase in overall sales, rising from ninth place to fifth place in the 2017 CSNEWS Top Wholesalers report. Eric will continue to work closely with Jeffrey and all of the company’s support staff to ensure effective execution of strategies and operational services. “I am very excited for this opportunity that lies ahead of me and look forward to the continuing growth of the business,” Eric said. “Upon graduating college, I knew I wanted to go right into the family business and absorb everything I could from my father. Working beside him has always been a dream of mine, and it’s an honor to be named president of J. Polep Distribution Services by him and our board.”

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Christopher Scott

Christopher Scott

Michael Pike

Michael Pike

PeoplesBank announced appointments of two key associates. Christopher Scott was appointed assistant vice president, portfolio manager, while Michael Pike was appointed Hadley branch manager. Scott has more than six years of banking experience. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a concentration in corporate finance, from the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. He is also a graduate of the Springfield Leadership Institute. Pike has more than 12 years of banking and financial-services experience. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Notre Dame College.

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Dr. Neil Kudler, former chief medical information officer for Baystate Health, has joined Holyoke-based healthcare consultancy VertitechIT as chief medical officer. “IT consultants focused primarily on bits and bytes are doing their clients a disservice,” said Kudler, who has held other senior executive and strategist positions at Baystate Health, one of New England’s largest healthcare systems. “As CMO of VertitechIT, I’m in a position to bridge that all-important technology gap between clinicians and the IT departments that must support them.” VertitechIT is among the fastest-growing healthcare IT consultancies in the country, focused on helping senior IT leaders to strategically and tactically transform the role of IT in the hospital setting. “Any consultant worth their fee can design and implement a new cloud strategy or infrastructure platform,” said VertitechIT CEO Michael Feld. “Dr. Kudler gives us immense credibility on the clinical side of the house, providing guidance on things like diversified health-system operations, population health, and data analytics.” Before joining VertitechIT, Kudler served as senior healthcare innovation strategist for TechSpring Technology Innovation Center, and as chief operating officer for Baycare Health Partners. He is a graduate of Colgate University and received his master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School. He received his doctor of medicine degree from New York University and trained in internal medicine at UC San Francisco.

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Jonathan Howell

Jonathan Howell

Springfield College named Jonathan Howell as its new director of Human Resources, effective March 5. He brings more than 18 years of experience in human resources, with the last 15 years working in higher education. As the college’s lead human-resources officer, Howell will be responsible for providing strategic leadership and direction surrounding all human-resources initiatives and priorities for Springfield College. Howell comes to Springfield College from Mitchell College in New London, Conn., where he served as vice president for Human Resources starting in 2015. Prior to his most recent position, Howell also served as director of Human Resources at Mitchell College from 2012 to 2015. Prior to his time there, Howell was employed for eight years at the University of Illinois in multiple human-resources positions. Howell received his bachelor’s degree in business management from Augustana College and will complete a master’s program in human resources from Ft. Hays State University this spring.

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Carol Anne McGowan

Carol Anne McGowan

The UMass Donahue Institute, an outreach and economic-development arm of the UMass President’s Office, promoted Carol Anne McGowan to associate director. In this position, McGowan works closely with the executive director to develop and implement management strategies, systems, and practices across the Donahue Institute. She is also directly responsible for overseeing all fiscal and human-resource functions. Previously, she served as the institute’s director of Administration and Finance. She first joined the institute in 2000 as a member of the Financial Management, Education and Training (FMET) team. She spent more than 10 years with FMET, developing curriculum and instructing in the areas of government finance and accounting for the U.S. Department of Defense. In addition to her role as associate director, McGowan has developed a credited course on post-award management of grants and contracts, which she will teach through UMass Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management. Earlier in her career, she served as director of Onslow Community Health Improvement Process, a community nonprofit organization in Onslow County, N.C. She has a master’s degree in human resources and organizational development from Webster University and an MBA from the UMass Isenberg School of Management.

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Miriam Siegel

Miriam Siegel

Country Bank announced that Miriam Siegel has joined its team as senior vice president of Human Resources. A graduate of the State University of New York at Albany with a bachelor’s degree in business, Siegel boasts 26 years in the financial-services industry. She is also a certified compensation professional and certified benefits professional from WorldatWork. For 21 years, Siegel worked at United Bank. She began her career as a payroll clerk and worked her way through the ranks until she found her passion within the human-resources department. Her time at United Bank made a significant impact on her approach to human resources. “I live and work by the philosophy that your most valuable assets are your people,” she said. “I am very excited to be back at a local community bank where employees and customers come first.” Siegel owned and operated the Village Store Café in Wilbraham with her husband. During that time, they began a run/walk event, the Cup to Pint Fun Run, to support local charities. The Children’s Museum in Wilbraham, the Livestrong Program at the Scantic Valley YMCA, and the Wilbraham Hampden Academic Trust, have all received donations from this annual fund-raiser. Siegel is a member of the Massachusetts Bankers Assoc., WorldatWork, and the New England Human Resources Assoc., and serves on the board of directors for Behavioral Health Network in Springfield. “Miriam’s extensive expertise in human resources within the financial-services industry makes her a perfect fit for Country Bank,” said Paul Scully, the bank’s CEO and president. “We are thrilled to have her join our team; we know that Miriam will be an esteemed resource for Country Bank and its employees.”

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Bulkley Richardson announced that Seunghee Cha and Jodi Miller have been promoted to partner, and Mary Bonzagni has joined the firm as partner as well. In her comprehensive estate-planning practice, Cha assists individuals and families from all walks of life, with a particular focus on special-needs planning for individuals living with intellectual, developmental, and age-related disabilities; conservatorship and alternatives; estate settlement; and trust administration. Miller focuses her practice on commercial and other civil litigation, including class actions, as well as regulatory matters. She has a particular expertise in the area of health law and also represents public and privately held corporations, financial institutions, schools and universities, nonprofits, and individuals in a range of litigation matters. Bonzagni has an established reputation in the field of intellectual property. Her work involves prosecuting, defending, and licensing patents for a wide variety of inventions, as well as challenging the patentability of both pre-grant and post-grant patents in a number of countries and regions. In-depth experience as a chemist has equipped her with a unique perspective and allows her to provide clients with both legal and scientific strategies. She also advises businesses on strategic aspects of trademark, copyright, and trade-secret protection.

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Charlie Epstein

Charlie Epstein

Charlie Epstein, an investment adviser and author who specializes in retirement consulting, has been appointed to the Holyoke Community College board of trustees by Gov. Charlie Baker. He was sworn in Feb. 2, and is expected to join the board for its next meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 27. Epstein is principal of the Holyoke-based Epstein Financial Group LLC and Epstein Financial Services, a registered, investment advisory firm providing corporate retirement-plan consulting as well as wealth-management and financial-planning services for business owners, professionals, and individual plan participants. He is also owner of the 401K Coach Program, which offers financial-adviser education services and training; the author of two books: Paychecks for Life: How to Turn Your 401(k) into a Paycheck Manufacturing Company and Save America, Save! The Secrets of a Successful 401(k) Plan; and an industry conference speaker and commentator who has appeared on the Fox Business Network. In 1994, he founded the Family Business Center of the Pioneer Valley in Amherst and remains on its board of directors. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Colgate University.

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David W. Griffin Sr.

David W. Griffin Sr.

David W. Griffin Sr., executive vice president and treasurer of the Dowd Agencies, LLC, is the 2018 recipient of the Daniel J. Gallivan award from the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee. “We are honored that one of our own has received this well-deserved honor,” said John E. Dowd Jr., president and CEO. “David has provided tireless effort for Holyoke, fulfilling various leadership capacities that have benefitted our clients and the citizens of Western Massachusetts alike.” Griffin is an active member of the Holyoke community, serving as president of the West Springfield Chamber of Commerce, West Springfield Rotary, Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade Committee, Springfield Country Club, Hampden County Insurance Agents, and chair of Mont Marie Health Care Center. He remains active with the CYO of Western Massachusetts as well. Griffin has more than 35 years of experience in the insurance industry, beginning his career in 1978 as a surety underwriter for Aetna Casualty. Since then, he has served as a broker specializing in large commercial and contracting accounts. He is a licensed insurance advisor as well as a certified insurance counselor. Since 1972, the Daniel J. Gallivan award, named after the South Hadley resident and longtime member of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, has been awarded to long-standing members of the association who have made significant contributions to the overall success of the parade and committee.

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Meaghan Murphy

Meaghan Murphy

Bacon Wilson announced that Meaghan Murphy has joined the firm as an associate attorney. A member of the firm’s litigation department, her practice is focused on labor and employment law. Murphy is a graduate of Western New England University School of Law, and received her bachelor’s degree from Amherst College. She works primarily from Bacon Wilson’s Springfield location, and is licensed to practice in both Massachusetts and Connecticut. Founded in 1895, Bacon Wilson, P.C. is one of the largest firms in the Pioneer Valley, with 44 lawyers and approximately 60 paralegals, administrative assistants, and support staff. The firm’s offices are located in Springfield, Amherst, Hadley, Northampton, and Westfield.

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Berkshire Bank promoted Lori Gazzillo to senior vice president and director of the Berkshire Bank Foundation. She was previously the foundation’s vice president. In her new position, Gazzillo is responsible for the development, planning, and implementation of strategies to support the Berkshire Bank Foundation, improving quality of life, cultivating partnerships, and fostering community relationships across the Bank’s six-state footprint. Gazzillo joined Berkshire Bank in 2011 from Legacy Banks, where she was the Community Relations officer since 2006. “Lori has more than 20 years of communications and community-relations experience and has shown exceptional leadership in improving and developing strong relationships in our existing and new markets. We look forward to continuing to foster these relationships as we grow,” said Linda Johnston, senior executive vice president and chief Human Resources officer. Gazzillo serves on the board of directors of 1Berkshire, the Brien Center, and Associated Grant Makers, is a member of the newly formed Berkshire Leadership Impact Council, and was recently appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker to the Berkshire Community College board of trustees. She has a bachelor’s degree from Keene State College and a master’s degree in education from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. She is also a graduate of the ABA School of Bank Marketing and Management.

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Michelle Theroux of Berkshire Hills Music Academy was installed as president of the South Hadley & Granby Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 23. The election of officers and directors took place at the Willits-Hallowell Center. The other officers elected were Dina Mead, vice president; Jessica Bodon, clerk; and Alexandra Wern-LaFlamme, treasurer. New or returning directors elected that evening were Carol Constant, Mead, Darren Thomas, and Wearn-Laflamme.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union (FCU), headquartered on Main Street in Springfield and serving members throughout Western Mass. through nine additional branches, announced the recent appointment of William Sharp as the new branch officer in Chicopee.

“In Bill, Chicopee has the perfect individual as the new leader in the office,” said Glenn Welch, president and CEO of Freedom Credit Union. “Bill is an extremely effective communicator and a real ‘people person.’ Building on his previous business-development role with FCU, Bill’s new position will mean more direct interaction and ongoing relationships with our members — and that will serve them very well.”

Sharp has worked with financial institutions for 40 years, having held management positions within the banking industry prior to joining Freedom Credit Union in 2013. He is active within his community and has received several recognitions. He currently serves as board chair for the Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee, which awarded him the Dr. Edward Ryan Award for board service in 2016. That same year, the Greater Easthampton Chamber of Commerce, which he had served as treasurer, named him Ambassador of the Year. He also has served as board chair for the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board and, in 2003, was named Volunteer of the Year by the Chicopee Chamber of Commerce.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College recently welcomed Nicholas D’Agostino as its new Affirmative Action officer and Title IX coordinator.



D’Agostino comes to HCC after working for nearly 12 years as an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and Affirmative Action professional in Connecticut, most recently as the associate in Diversity and Equity at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) and before that as an EEO specialist with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families. He started at HCC on Jan. 29.



“I’m grateful for the opportunity to join the HCC team,” said D’Agostino. “Taking the leap to leave one institution to join another is never easy, but I believe HCC was the right choice for me. I look forward to building upon HCC’s strong foundation and hope to contribute in a meaningful way to the future of the college and our community.”



A longtime advocate for equity and social justice with a focus on LGBTQ issues, D’Agostino has been an Anti-Defamation League anti-bullying trainer for more than 10 years and has a long association with True Colors, a support and advocacy group in Hartford for LGBTQ youth, which he has served as board president. He has either led or participated in hundreds of affirmative-action and discrimination investigations during his career.



At CCSU, D’Agostino conducted awareness and advocacy programs, promoted social-justice initiatives, engaged the college community in sexual-harassment and assault prevention, and led training sessions on diversity, Title IX compliance, anti-racism, and LGBTQ awareness. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in federally funded education programs.



D’Agostino holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Quinnipiac University and a master’s degree in counselor education with a specialization in student development in higher education from CCSU.


Daily News

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.

“As the life sciences, and biotech in particular, expand in Western Massachusetts, it is clear STCC is positioned to respond to workforce needs,” said STCC President John Cook.

Graduates from STCC’s biotechnology program find themselves in demand for jobs in a growing field. The industry trade group Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio) released an annual report in November that reveals Massachusetts has more jobs classified as biotechnology research and development than any other state. Biotech R&D employment grew by 9% in 2016. Employment in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry has grown 28% since 2007, according to the report.

“Graduates of your programs are ready for the life-sciences workforce. With nearly 12,000 new life-sciences industry jobs being projected over the next five years in Massachusetts, our intention at MassBioEd is to effectively convey to hiring managers throughout the region’s life-sciences industry that your graduates are well-prepared for biotechnology technician positions,” MassBioEd Executive Director Peter Abair stated in a Jan. 5 letter to STCC.

Lisa Rapp, professor and Biotechnology Department chair at STCC, noted that “we are honored to receive this recognition, which reflects our commitment to supporting students. Our program is designed to prepare students for the life-sciences workforce. Since 2012, we have received $375,000 in grants, which has allowed us to acquire state-of-the-art equipment and supplies. Students learn techniques used in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries.”

The STCC biotechnology associate-degree program offers options to either transfer to a four-year program to complete a degree in any of the biological sciences or start a career after graduation. Graduates who complete the career option are qualified for a variety of jobs such as laboratory assistant, laboratory technician, or manufacturing technician.

The biotechnology certificate of completion enables students to acquire skills in one year and can benefit students who already have a science degree but lack the necessary hands-on lab skills for industry employment.

Daily News

BOSTON — Massachusetts employers began 2018 much the way they ended 2017 — with growing confidence in the economy and optimism about their own business prospects.

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index rose a half-point to 64.1 during January, setting another 17-year high. The Index has gained 2.7 points during the past 12 months as employer confidence levels have remained comfortably within the optimistic range.

Growing enthusiasm about the Massachusetts economy and a brightening outlook on economic conditions six months from now fueled the January confidence increase. At the same time, the hiring outlook remained muted as low unemployment and demographic shifts continued to impede the ability of employers to find the workers they need. The survey was taken prior to major declines in global financial markets during the past several days.

“Rising confidence is not surprising in a state with 3.5% unemployment and an economy that grew at a 3.3% annual rate during the fourth quarter,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. “Economic output, job growth, and spending all rose at a healthy clip in Massachusetts during the final three months of the year, and economists expect modest growth to continue during the first half of 2018.”

The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009. It has remained above 50 since October 2013.

The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index were mixed during January. The most significant gain came in the Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth, which rose 1.3 points to 68.9. The Massachusetts Index has gained 3.7 points in the past two months, 5.5 points year over year, and now stands at its highest level since November 2000.

The U.S. Index of national business conditions also continued a yearlong rally by gaining 0.6 points to 64.8. January marked the 95th consecutive month in which employers have been more optimistic about the Massachusetts economy than the national economy.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, decreased a point to 61.7, while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, surged 2.1 points to 66.6. The Current Index has risen 2.1 points and the Future Index 3.3 points during the past 12 months.

The Company Index, reflecting employer views of their own operations and prospects, rose slightly, gaining 0.2 points to 62.3. The Employment Index was essentially flat, leaving it 2.1 points below its level of January 2017. Non-manufacturing companies (66.6) were more optimistic than manufacturers (62.3). Large employers (67.2) were more bullish than medium-sized companies (62.7) or small businesses (63.5).

“The strong Future Index readings signal that employers anticipate steady growth during the first two quarters of 2018. The only fly in ointment remains the prospect that labor shortages may constrict the ability of companies to grow and expand,” said Paul Bolger, president, Massachusetts Capital Resource Co., and a BEA member.

AIM President and CEO Richard Lord, also BEA member, said 2018 brings with it significant risk for employers as progressive groups push ballot questions that could create a $1 billion paid family and medical leave program, impose a punitive tax on many small businesses, and raise the state minimum wage to $15 per hour.

“The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will today hear arguments in a challenge that I and four other business leaders filed to the constitutionality of the income surtax question,” Lord noted. “Meanwhile, the business community is seeking common ground on a compromise paid-leave proposal that will not harm the economy.”

Class of 2018 Difference Makers

Bob Bolduc Cooks Up New Ways to Better the Lives of Young People

005_bolducbob-diff2017When Mavis Wanczyk scored the single largest lottery win in U.S. history last August — with a ticket purchased at a Pride station in Chicopee — she wasn’t the only winner. No, the store — meaning its owner, Bob Bolduc — got a $50,000 bonus from the state as well.

A few weeks later, Bolduc distributed $1,000 checks to more than 20 Springfield elementary schools to help teachers make classroom purchases they’d normally have to pay for out of pocket. The rest of the 50 grand was distributed among a variety of youth- and education-centric organizations that Bolduc already supports year-round.

“I decided to give it to the kids,” he told BusinessWest, shrugging off any suggestion that it was a tough call. “It’s a windfall; it’s not my money. So it was an easy decision to make.”

Mary Anne’s Kids was another recipient of a $1,000 bonus. An arm of the Center for Human Development, it’s a fund that provides opportunities for children in foster care that would not typically be paid for by the state, from summer camps to extra-curricular programs.

We didn’t even ask for it; he just gave it to us. He’s the grandfather of Mary Anne’s Kids, and a wonderful man. He’s been a godsend to our program.”

“We didn’t even ask for it; he just gave it to us,” said Jim Williams, the fund’s long-time director, before detailing some of the ways Pride’s support of Mary Anne’s Kids through the years makes the $1,000 gift, really, just a drop in the bucket. “He’s the grandfather of Mary Anne’s Kids, and a wonderful man. He’s been a godsend to our program.”

Indeed, since its inception and for more than a decade since, Bolduc has contributed significant dollars to “children who otherwise would not have funds to go to college, go to prom, all the extraordinary things your children and mine have the opportunity to do,” Williams explained. “Bob has basically been our big-ticket guy. He was there when we started, and he’s been there every year.”

Take, for example, the $20,000 or so worth of gifts that pour in every December from Chistmas trees set up in all Pride stores, adorned with tags listing a child’s age, gender, and gift request. Customers buy most of them, and Bolduc covers the rest. And as the holiday approaches, he closes the diner he owns off Mass Pike exit 6 in Chicopee and hosts 120 foster children for a party with Santa Claus.

Williams said Bolduc has personally funded purchases ranging from a handicap-accessible bicycle to a gravestone for one foster child’s brother, who was killed in a drive-by shooting.

“I can tell you this: throughout my career at CHD, Bob has been such a genuine man,” Williams said. “I can’t tell enough good things about him.”

When he sat down with BusinessWest, Bolduc characterized supporting one’s community as an imperative for local businesses, one he came to understand early in his career building the Pride empire, when he and his wife became involved with a number of nonprofits and he began to recognize the needs they had.

“Every nonprofit needs money,” he said. “So I called the people we buy from — Coke, Frito-Lay, all the big companies — and asked, ‘would you give me some money for this little nonprofit that’s trying to help people?’ They’d say, ‘no, we only do national ones — March of Dimes, Muscular Dystrophy Society, American Cancer Society — so we can’t give to all the local companies.’

“A light went off for me — ‘a-ha! If they can’t give, who’s going to give? It’s got to be the little guy,’” he continued. “That’s when we decided to put all our money locally. And it was a no-brainer. The more nonprofits you get involved with, the more you realize how many needs there are, how many kids are really hurting.”

Indeed, kids — youth welfare and education, to be specific — are the beating heart of Bolduc’s philanthropic bent. To name just a few examples:

• Pride recently raised $10,000 to support Square One’s work with high-risk children and families;

• Bolduc has been a business partner for Lincoln Elementary School in Springfield, where he sends volunteer readers and donates supplies as requested. He and his wife also supply hats, mittens, and socks for all the students. “We realized these kids don’t have hats and gloves for wintertime — some of them don’t even have toothbrushes,” he said. “This is happening right here, in Springfield”;

• Pride participated in a North End Community Task Force dealing with gang violence and related problems;

• In partnership with Brightside for Children and Families, Bolduc provided a van outfitted as a mobile library, as well as a driver and warehouse space. The van travels around the area in the summer, providing kids with summer reading books;

• Pride collaborates with WMAS on its annual Coats for Kids campaign; and

• The company regularly fund-raises for various causes such as Wounded Warriors and Puerto Rico hurricane relief, by supplying donation cans at all Pride stores.

But what makes Bolduc a true Difference Maker, as if his philanthropy weren’t enough, is the way he sees his role as not just a businessman, but someone with the opportunity to impact individual lives — of kids in need, yes, but also his employees, many of whom come from poverty — and watch as they turn around and collectively impact their communities for the better.

Food for Thought

Born in Indian Orchard, Bolduc graduated from Notre Dame University with a degree in mechanical engineering, then earned an MBA at Purdue University, before returning to his home state.

After working as a quality engineer at American Bosch in the 1960s, he enlisted in the Army and served in Vietnam. Back in the States, he briefly went to work at his father’s gas station in Indian Orchard in 1970 before buying him out, thus becoming the third generation of the family to run that business — a business, by the way, that just marked its 100th anniversary.

Bob Bolduc and Pride Stores President Marsha Del Monte (right) present a $10,000 check

Bob Bolduc and Pride Stores President Marsha Del Monte (right) present a $10,000 check to Square One’s Kristine Allard and President and CEO Joan Kagan.

In addition to running the station, Bolduc became a tire and auto-parts wholesaler, specifically a distributor for BF Goodrich and Continental, and became proficient enough at it to be chosen to address a national sales convention of Goodrich retailers at age 30.

But in 1976, he made the shift that would define his career, buying a self-serve gas station in Indian Orchard. Over the years, he would gradually expand his business, creating the chain of stores known today as Pride. But, more importantly, he developed a reputation as an industry innovator by marrying the self-service station with another emerging phenomenon, the convenience store.

Other innovations would follow; Pride would eventually become the first chain in Western Mass. to put a Dunkin’ Donuts in the stores, then the first to incorporate a Subway. But where the company has really made a name, in recent years, is with its own fresh-food production.

“The industry has gone from repair shops to convenience stores, then convenience stores started selling coffee,” Bolduc recalled. “The convenience stores got bigger — lots bigger — and started selling more food items, then they got even bigger, to what we call superstores; we’re talking stores between 5,000 and 7,000 square feet, with at least six pumps, sometimes eight or 10, and selling lots more food items.”

But several factors have hit convenience stores hard in recent years, he noted. Fuel efficiency is up. People are driving less, and public transportation has improved. Cigarette sales are way down, and online lottery purchases are cutting into in-store sales.

“All these things that drive our business are disappearing, and we’re looking at a business where the future expectation is for decreased sales, not increased sales,” he noted.

On the other hand, “people still have to eat three times a day, and they’re looking for convenience all the time, and families aren’t sitting down for breakfast and lunch anymore, and sometimes not even dinner; they’re buying food at restaurants or convenience stores.”

The goal, then, he said, has been to improve food quality at Pride to the point where people will see the chain not as a gas station that sells food, but as a food store that sells gas.

To support that shift, the Pride Kitchen, located at the company’s headquarters on Cottage Street in Springfield, runs two shifts of staff making fresh sandwiches, salads, fruit and yogurt parfaits, and — in a bakery that opened in 2017 — fresh muffins, donuts, cookies, brownies, and pastries. A third shift belongs to the drivers who bring all this fresh fare to stores across the region, making food service at Pride a truly 24-hour operation.

Newer stores feature a Pride Grill, where morning visitors can down fresh-cooked eggs before picking up a made-to-order sandwich for lunch at the deli, as well as drive-thru windows and mobile ordering. This isn’t, as Bolduc noted repeatedly, the convenience-store food of the past.

By studying trends and repositioning the company as a place where revenues will grow, not decrease, he’s not only boosting his own bottom line, but also the gaggle of nonprofits, schools, and individuals that benefit from his philanthropy.

See the Need, Meet the Need

It’s a passion, he said, that was sparked during his time at Notre Dame, when he volunteered in a disadvantaged area of Chicago during spring break.

“That was an eye-opener,” he said. “We stayed with an African-American family with a 14-year-old boy. We brought him to see a Blackhawks game because he liked hockey. That was the first time he’d ever been downtown.”

Having grown up in a family with a successful business, he saw up close for the first time how not everyone had the resources he took for granted. Once he and his wife, who also had a heart for volunteerism, resettled in Springfield and found success with Pride, they got involved in a number of nonprofit boards, and — thanks to his failed pitches to the likes of Coke and Frito-Lay — quickly came to understand the importance of local philanthropy.

The Pride stores themselves often function as vehicles for this work, such as his partnership with Square One. He and the early-education provider came up with the idea of selling ‘Square One squares’ at Pride locations for a dollar, where donors could write their names on squares to be posted at the cashier’s counter.

“Bob took the donations and matched a portion of them, rounding them up to a $10,000 gift to Square One, which was awesome,” said Kristine Allard, chief development and communication officer at Square One.

After Mavis Wanczyk scored her record-breaking jackpot at this Chicopee Pride station, Bob Bolduc distributed the store’s $50,000 bonus “windfall” to dozens of schools and nonprofits.

After Mavis Wanczyk scored her record-breaking jackpot at this Chicopee Pride station, Bob Bolduc distributed the store’s $50,000 bonus “windfall” to dozens of schools and nonprofits.

“That’s the kind of thing we rely on the business community for, to provide us funding to offset where our greatest expenses are,” she added. “When we’re able to approach someone like Bob, who understands that and sees the value in that, it helps us get the word out to other businesses, and we can leverage those dollars and leverage those opportunities to show other businesses what Pride is doing for our community. So it’s good for his business and good for Square One.”

Bolduc wishes more businesses could understand that synergy — or at least acknowledge the needs that exist.

“There are more than 200 homeless kids in the city school system, who go back to shelters at night,” he said. “People don’t know that they don’t go home; they go to shelters. Or, they don’t know that Square One gives kids a better meal on Friday, because they’re not going to get another good meal until they go back to school Monday morning. This is in Springfield. It becomes pretty obvious when you dig deeper and you see it — then you say, sure, the American Heart Association is wonderful, but the big people are taking care of them. The more you see locally, the more involved you get.”

Allard, for one, appreciates that attitude.

“From a development standpoint, from a fund-raising standpoint, it’s really refreshing to see someone who thinks the way he does,” she told BusinessWest. “By supporting the work of nonprofits, it’s good for his business, which is good for his employees. By investing in the work being done to help the community, it works out for everybody.”

On the Way Up

Bolduc was quick to note that his company has long supported arts, hospitals, and religious institutions — the types of entities that create quality of life in a community. But perhaps the most critical component is education, particularly in a city — Springfield — where around half of high-schoolers drop out. He says efforts to change that have to start early, which explains his support of Square One.

“If you don’t get a good education, you can’t get a decent job, and the cycle continues. So what’s the one solution to break the cycle? Education.”

He noted that the first person in a family to attend college is usually not the last, which is why he and his wife provide scholarships to area students. “That’s my message — we need to support education and help kids break out of the cycle.”

But he’s helping them break out in more ways than one. Since transforming one of Springfield’s most visible eyesores, at the foot of the North End Bridge, into a thriving Pride superstore almost a decade ago, he has drawn a steady stream of young employees from a neighborhood with high levels of poverty, and helped them embark on careers. And soon, he plans to do the same with new store in the McKnight area of Mason Square.

“At Pride, we’re happy with the fact that we provide jobs and careers,” he said. “We don’t have a human resources department; it’s called Career Development. We are very happy to take a young person who wants to grow and teach them the business and watch them grow up into management, provide for their families, bring in relatives and, in some cases, their kids as they get older. We’re very proud of that.”

The McKnight Neighborhood Council unanimously endorsed the development, he added. “They asked, ‘will you employ local people?’ We said, ‘100%.’”

He noted that the North End Pride station has seen crime drop significantly in the area over the past five years, thanks to the community policing program he has supported, but also, perhaps, due to growing employment opportunities like the ones Pride provides.

“These are good people. I tell them, ‘come to work every day, and we’ll teach you and give you good pay,’ and there’s an amazing turnaround. Some don’t take to it, but a lot of them do. We see the success stories. My goal is to someday see them do the same things for someone else. It’s that simple.”

That legacy and culture Bolduc aims to create is why, seven years after being named BusinessWest’s Top Entrepreneur for his innovative business growth, he is now being recognized as a Difference Maker, recognizing far more impactful successes.

“These are his future employees and his future customers,” Allard said. “We need to invest in our youth. If we’re not looking at our youth as the future of our community, we’re doing ourselves a great disservice.”

That’s a message Bolduc wants every local business to hear, and to respond to in any way they can afford, because the needs never go away.

“For anyone who wants to get involved, give me a call,” he said, “because I guarantee you’ll get more out of it then you put it.”

That investment doesn’t have to be a $50,000 lottery windfall, but such good fortune certainly doesn’t hurt.

“He’s a great person,” Allard said. “When that [lottery] news came out, no one would have minded had he kept it. But he said, ‘why not give it away?’ It was really refreshing to hear that.”

For a career spent saying ‘why not?’ — in both his business and the community — Bob Bolduc has plenty to take pride in, as he continues to make a difference.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Construction Sections

Building Concern

David Fontaine Jr.

David Fontaine Jr. outside one of his company’s current high-profile projects, the new Pope Francis High School.

The good news for area contractors is that construction is humming along in Western Mass. The bad news? A limited talent pool has been stretched even thinner, and companies often struggle to find skilled workers. It’s actually a national problem, as a decades-long emphasis on college degrees has steered young people away from the trades as a viable career option. That needs to change, industry experts say, if they want to keep growing.

Long before the MGM Springfield casino project put hundreds of workers — carpenters, ironworkers, plumbers, electricians, you name it — to work, the region’s construction companies found themselves struggling with a critical element of the business: finding workers.

n some ways, it’s a good problem to have — it means construction activity is up regionally — but it may not be sustainable.

“In Western Mass., it’s a combination of things,” said David Fontaine Jr., president of Fontaine Brothers in Springfield. “Everyone is very busy, with a lot of large projects going on and demanding a lot of labor. And then, you’re seeing a shortage of people entering the trades. Its hard to distinguish which is more the culprit right now, but it’s definitely those two things going on.”

Fran Beaulieu, president of Phil Beaulieu & Sons Home Improvement in Chicopee, agrees.

“There is a shortage, and it’s hard to find new help; they just don’t come knocking on your door,” he told BusinessWest. “So we have to create from within. We do have a nice crop of younger guys working for us, under 30, and we’re doing everything we can to retain them — making a better work environment, making it profitable for them, and showing them there is a future in this. That’s how you retain them.”

Attracting new blood to the field? That’s a little more challenging.

“It’s hard work,” he said, perhaps referring to both the actual jobs and convincing people to do them. “When you decide you want to be a carpenter, plumber, or electrician, you know it will be hard work. And there will be days when it’s 28 degrees out — those are the bad days. But then there are a lot of good days — nice, sunny days when it’s 75 degrees out, and people sitting at their desks wish they were outside.”

It doesn’t help, he noted, that some elements of society have looked down at the construction trades over the past quarter-century, pushing hard the idea that young people need to earn a college degree.

Yet, “if you take the job professionally, you can do really, really well,” he said, noting that someone who starts at age 18 may be earning $80,000 to $90,000 by the time they’re 23 or 24, while someone who went to college is just starting out in an entry-level job, often saddled with six-figure debt.

“And that’s working for someone else; never mind venturing out and doing your own projects,” he went on. “I always tell young guys, ‘the carpenter becomes the builder, the builder becomes the developer, and the developer becomes the real-estate owner.’ After five or six years, they’re often no longer wearing a toolbelt, because they’re managing the people working for them. This business can be very lucrative; there’s a lot of opportunity. We all need a plumber from time to time.”

If You Build It…

America needs a lot more than that. Last year, the National Assoc. of Home Builders’ Economics and Housing Policy Group conducted a national online survey of 2,001 young adults (ages 18-25) in response to growing concerns over labor supply in the trades. The current scarcity is all the more concerning, the report noted, given projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that the construction sector will add around 790,000 new jobs between 2014 and 2024.

Among respondents who say they want to work in construction, 80% cited good pay as a reason why — the top motivator, in fact. Other reasons include the ability to obtain useful skills (74%), the ability to work outside (53%), the ability to start one’s own business (50%), and the fact that it doesn’t require a college degree (37%).

On the other hand, when respondents who said they were not interested in a construction career were asked why, the top reason was the desire for a less physically demanding job, cited by 48%, followed by the difficulty of the work (32%), the desire for an office job (26%), the desire to open their own business (20%) and, interestingly, the desire to make more money than people in the trades make (19%).

Interesting, because there seems to be a perception gap when it comes to salary. Of the respondents uninterested in a construction career, almost half (44%) think annual salary averages less than $51,000, and only 2% think someone can earn more than $100,000.

Still, the report notes, “most young adults who have yet to make up their minds on a career see very little chance they would join the trades even if the pay was high. This decision is based more on their view that construction work is physically demanding and difficult, and less so on often-repeated presumptions that it is because they prefer ‘new economy’ type jobs, or because the work is seasonal or requires being outside in the elements.

Fran Beaulieu

Fran Beaulieu says recruiting talent is a constant challenge in the industry, which is why he focuses on creating a strong culture of retention and advancement.

“The helpful news for the construction industry is that many 18- to 25-year olds who in theory would not like to work in the trades would reconsider it for an annual salary of $75,000 or more,” it continues. “Although the average annual salary is below this for the trades relevant to the home building industry, $75,000-plus salaries are available for the top 10% to 25% of workers, and it may be worthwhile to make this more widely known.”

Fontaine is doing his part.

“I think this is a great career,” he said. “We have a lot of people here who have had long, successful careers. And certainly, a lot of other contractors in the area have employed a lot of the same people for years and years. A lot of that is the unions, which have great healthcare programs and pension programs that people can take advantage of.”

It’s the other side of the coin, the too-slow trickle of younger workers, that has contractors concerned. Take, for example, these comments published in BusinessWest during 2017 alone:

• From Joe Marois, president of Marois Construction in South Hadley: “Now we’re being faced with a labor shortage, which is always a challenge. That’s the nature of construction — it’s never perfect. I don’t know to what extent the casino is affecting that, but basically, the labor pool for tradespeople is very small.”

• From Laurie Raymaakers, co-owner of J.L. Raymaakers & Sons in Westfield: “What we’re not seeing is qualified or experienced people to hire to grow with us. The need for skilled tradespeople is not going away, and it’s not just us — everyone we talk to within the industry says the same thing. And it’s a field where you can make a very good wage.”

• And from Brian Ruud, owner of Vista Home Improvement in Chicopee, who noted that companies have to be willing to pay competitive wages for good talent: “It’s hard to find good people … We’re happy with where we are now. We could grow more if we had the right people, but we’ll find them.”

Jason Garand

Jason Garand says the local carpenters union has developed programs to introduce young people to well-paying careers in the trade.

Jason Garand, business manager of Carpenters Local Union 336 in Springfield, agreed that the promise of good pay is a must to attract young people, noting that, if an 18-year-old with no plans to go to college can earn $11 an hour at McDonald’s or $13 an hour on a job site, doing hard work in the elements, he might choose fast food, even though there’s a much lower career ceiling in that field — perhaps store management, but no higher.

“He might say, ‘I’ll take the easier path in the short term,’ but in the long term, it’s a dead end,” he noted.

As one of its efforts to raise the profile of its trade, the union recently partnered with Putnam Vocational Technical Academy to bring two students in as apprentices to work on the MGM Springfield project.

“We’re giving them a taste of what construction is all about, and our rate is $16 to start — that’s an apprentice, walking in with no skills,” Garand said, adding that, in the long term, “the union has a wage and benefit package that puts you in the middle class.”

Daily Grind

Fontaine was quick to note that the office side of the business isn’t seeing the same shortage, as the flow of young people graduating from schools like Wentworth Institute of Technology or Worcester Polytechnic Institute with degrees in construction management or engineering has been steady.

“We’re seeing more of a shortage of people going into the trades, the laborers — carpenters, plumbers, pipefitters.”

He added that young people who come from families with construction trades in their background are much more likely to enter the field themselves. Meanwhile, Beaulieu said, immigrants, many from South and Central America or Eastern Europe, are entering the field locally at a higher rate than American-born young people.

“There are some drawbacks,” Fontaine said. “There’s a lot of travel involved, a lot of driving to and from job sites. You’re up and on the road early; some people are averse to that. And there are fluctuations in the construction industry; the market is going to go up and down. It’s not a career where you expect to be employed 52 weeks a year. Especially in the early stage of a career, that can drive some people away, too.”

Beaulieu agreed that it’s not the easiest career. “It’s tough on the body; you have to take care of yourself and stay thin — but the job itself will keep you thin.”

For whatever reason, he went on, “I don’t think a lot of seniors and juniors, when they’re thinking about career opportunities, are necessarily thinking about a trade. But, on the other hand, you don’t have to leave college with huge debt, you’re going to get paid right out of the gate, and five or six years later, you can be a master at the trade.”

With that in mind, Beaulieu says he focuses on training from within, so that his own people can grow in their careers, stay with the firm, and advance to project management and beyond.

The Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry recently conducted its own study on why the construction business struggles to attract new talent, and emerged with five takeaways:

• Young people thrive on regular communication. They enjoy collaborating on teams. Mentoring programs will encourage them to stay on board with a company.

• What matters to a young person about work differs from older generations. Young people enjoy technology, and the construction industry is using more of it. Experts recommend appealing to young people’s interest in technology.

• Company culture is important. Young people want jobs that come with perks and ‘come and go as you like’ atmospheres, which are common among high-tech firms. To be appealing, construction firms need to create ‘good fit’ cultures.

• Companies need to develop new recruitment strategies to meet the long-term employment forecasts, which are positive.

• The construction industry needs to target the right group of young people for field positions — those out of high school but not in college. An older group, attending two-year community-college programs, is an up-and-coming recruitment target as well; they may have tried a career path or two and are ready to settle down.

Like others BusinessWest has spoken with recently about this challenge, Fontaine said there’s no one fix, but added that the tide may be turning when it comes to getting the word out that careers in the construction trades are more stable and lucrative than young people might think.

“I think it’s been a challenge for a while, but the unions have done a good job recruiting people into the trades the last couple of years; they’ve done a good job, especially with some projects like the casino, of reaching into the local market,” he noted. “People are becoming more aware of the opportunities than they were five years ago. But it’s still a constant challenge to get and keep good people.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Court Dockets Departments

The following is a compilation of recent lawsuits involving area businesses and organizations. These are strictly allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. Readers are advised to contact the parties listed, or the court, for more information concerning the individual claims.

CHICOPEE DISTRICT COURT
Arnold’s & Eddie’s Foods Inc. v. Pasquales Associates, LLC; Michael Chagnon; and Joseph Santaniello
Allegation: Breach of contact for goods purchased: $11,020
Filed: 12/22/17

Natasha Wheeler v. Wilbraham Common Associates, LP; SHP Acquisitions II, LLC; and SHP Acquisitions V, LLC
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $7,000
Filed: 1/5/18

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT
Theresa Gibson, executrix of the estate of Lillian Sydlo v. Genesis Healthcare Co., LLC d/b/a Heritage Hall
Allegation: Medical malpractice: $100,000+
Filed: 12/20/17

John Stagnaro v. J.F. White Contracting Co.; Schiavone Construction Co., LLC; and White-Schiavone Joint Venture
Allegation: Negligence; failure to maintain safe worksite, causing fall and injury: $783,750
Filed: 12/22/17

Kristine Greco v. Delivery Express Corp. and Michael Greco
Allegation: Unjust enrichment: $27,300
Filed: 12/29/17

Michael Devine and Donna Devine v. W & I Construction Inc. and Mansion Woods Condominium Trust
Allegation: Slip and fall causing injury: $161,501.86
Filed: 12/29/17

HAMPSHIRE DISTRICT COURT
Wanda Deitnet v. Elijah Thompson and Performance Food Group Inc.
Allegation: Motor-vehicle negligence causing injury: $6,793.06
Filed: 12/28/17

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT
Edwin J. Scagel v. Brian A. Corriveau individually and d/b/a AML Construction Services, et al
Allegation: Breach of contract; money owed for services, labor, and materials: $123,000
Filed: 12/20/17

FRANKLIN SUPERIOR COURT
Michael A. Herbert v. South County Emergency Medical Services, Town of Deerfield, Town of Sunderland, and Town of Whately
Allegation: Employment disability and sex discrimination
Filed: 1/8/18

PALMER DISTRICT COURT
K. Sacco Electric Inc. v. Mr. Home
Allegation: Failure to compensate for services rendered: $7,758.12
Filed: 12/22/17

K. Sacco Electric Inc. v. Decosmo Construction, LLC
Allegation: Failure to compensate for services rendered: $4,500.52
Filed: 12/27/17

K. Sacco Electric Inc. v. Shaha Food and Fuel, LLC
Allegation: Failure to compensate for services rendered: $16,197.14
Filed: 12/29/17

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Bacon Wilson announced that Meaghan Murphy has joined the firm as an associate attorney. A member of the firm’s litigation department, her practice is focused on labor and employment law.

Murphy is a graduate of Western New England University School of Law, and received her bachelor’s degree from Amherst College. She works primarily from Bacon Wilson’s Springfield location, and is licensed to practice in both Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Founded in 1895, Bacon Wilson, P.C. is one of the largest firms in the Pioneer Valley, with 44 lawyers and approximately 60 paralegals, administrative assistants, and support staff. The firm’s offices are located in Springfield, Amherst, Hadley, Northampton, and Westfield.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Students who graduate from Holyoke Community College (HCC) with an associate degree will see an average increase in annual earnings of about $10,000 a year compared to those with only a high-school diploma, according to a new report that calculates the total economic impact of HCC on the Pioneer Valley at nearly $215 million annually.

“By comparison,” the report says, “this contribution that the college provides on its own is almost as large as the entire arts, entertainment, and recreation industry in this area.”

The analysis of HCC’s economic value was conducted by Emsi, an economic modeling firm whose clients include colleges and universities as well as some of the largest for-profit corporations in the U.S., such as Amazon and Coca-Cola. For this, Emsi based its conclusions on academic and financial reports from HCC, industry and employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, and other surveys related to education and social behavior. The study, commissioned by the college, looked at data from 2015-16.

“When you talk about our impact, most people don’t think about our economic impact,” said HCC president Christina Royal. “They think about HCC offering education and the impact the college has directly on students’ lives in terms of their academic studies and career pathways. I don’t think people realize that HCC is an economic powerhouse in this region. This study puts a numerical value on what we do every day.”

For fiscal year 2016, which ended June 30, 2016, the study found that the total economic impact of the college on the economy in the three counties of the Pioneer Valley (Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin) was $214.6 million, or about 0.7% of the region’s gross regional product.

That number includes direct spending by the college’s 991 full-time and part-time employees as well as operational spending by the college itself, and accounts for a multiplier effect, which measures how that money works its way through the regional economy. The total also includes short-term construction projects and spending by students who relocate to the Pioneer Valley as well as spending by students who choose to remain in the area for college rather than go elsewhere. In FY 2015-16, HCC served 8,243 credit students and 3,024 non-credit students.

The largest impact, though, comes from alumni — former students who continue to live and work in the region: $155.1 million, or enough to support 2,642 jobs, the report notes.

The study also examined the economic benefits of HCC from a student’s perspective, noting that those who complete their associate degree could expect to earn an average of $9,600 more per year than those with only a high-school diploma. “In return for their investment, HCC’s students will receive a stream of higher future earnings that will continue to grow through their working lives.”

Put another way, for every $1 students invest in their education (out-of-pocket expenses, interest on loans, foregone income while in school), they will earn $3.2, an average return of 12.7%. “This is an impressive return, especially when compared to the 30-year average 10.1% of the U.S. stock market,” the report says.

The study also concludes that HCC represents a “a solid investment” for taxpayers, generating more in tax revenue than it takes in through state and local funding — $54.6 million compared to $31.6 million, or a benefit-cost ratio of 1.8, an average rate of return of 4.5%.

Massachusetts also benefits as a whole from the presence of HCC in two major ways: increased prosperity from an expanding economic base and savings generated by the improved lifestyles of students, most notably in a reduction in medical costs through improved health, reduced crime, and lower employer contributions toward unemployment.

“The results of this study demonstrate that HCC creates value from multiple perspectives,” Emsi concludes. “The college benefits local businesses by increasing consumer spending in the region and supplying a steady flow of qualified, trained workers into the workforce. It enriches the lives of students by raising their lifetime earnings and helping them achieve their individual potential. It benefits state and local taxpayers through increased tax receipts across the state and a reduced demand for government-supported social services. Finally, it benefits society as a whole in Massachusetts by creating a more prosperous economy and generating a variety of savings through the improved lifestyle of students.”

Briefcase Departments

Employer Confidence Closes 2017 at 18-year High

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

UMass Team Reports Gambling Research to Gaming Commission

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

Springfield Central Cultural District Receives $25,000 Grant

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

Columbia Gas of Massachusetts Offers Winter Safety Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Departments People on the Move
Michelle Chase

Michelle Chase

United Bank announced the hiring of Michelle Chase, a local banker with 16 years of banking and financial experience throughout Western Mass. and North Central Conn., as its new vice president/branch manager of the Ludlow branch at 528 Center St. Chase brings extensive banking experience and financial expertise to United Bank, holding key roles throughout her career in commercial lending, consumer lending, operations, loan servicing, and retail banking. Most recently, Chase spent more than six years with PeoplesBank, where she managed its Westfield branch and led a team that turned it into one of the bank’s top-producing banking offices. Prior to PeoplesBank, Chase was a small-business lender with the Western Massachusetts Enterprise Fund from 2008 to 2011 and a Loan Operations manager with New England Bank, formerly Enfield Savings Bank. Her 16-year career in banking started in 2001 as a lending specialist with Southbridge Savings Bank. Chase earned a bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and went on to receive an MBA from Bay Path University. She also studied at the Center for Financial Training. Her reputation in the banking industry spans beyond her professional and educational successes. In addition to winning internal company awards, Chase was selected to BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty class of 2017, which recognizes young civic leaders in Western Mass. She also received the Young Professional Society’s (YPS) Excellence in Leadership Award in 2014 for excellence in leadership skills and initiative and for her mentorship of other YPS members.

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Jennifer Plassmann

Jennifer Plassmann

North Brookfield Savings Bank (NBSB) announced the recent promotion of Jennifer Plassmann to the role of branch manager at the 1051 Thorndike St. branch in Palmer. In her new role, she will supervise and oversee all aspect of banking within the Palmer branch, including managing the teller line, scheduling, opening accounts, taking loan applications, and assisting customers with their banking needs. “Jennifer’s promotion is very well-deserved. She has proven herself to be a very valuable asset to the community and customers of Palmer, to the staff at her branch, and to the entire team at North Brookfield Savings Bank,” said Donna Boulanger, NBSB President and CEO. “We are confident she will continue to deliver many great benefits by sharing her experience, product knowledge, excellent customer-service skills, and her dedication to the community.” Plassmann most recently served as assistant branch manager and acting branch manager at North Brookfield Savings Bank’s Palmer location, where she excelled at being a leader for the branch staff and providing customers with exceptional care and attention, Boulanger said. In addition, she is a strong community supporter, often volunteering her time and efforts for various local community events, including but not limited to the Palmer 300th Anniversary Parade, the Palmer Historical and Cultural Center Tree and Wreath Festival, the Ware Flair Parade, the West Brookfield Asparagus Festival, and annual financial-aid nights at local high schools. “I am so pleased to continue my banking career with North Brookfield Savings Bank and within the community of Palmer,” Plassmann said. “I know and appreciate this neighborhood and all of the wonderful people and businesses who call this home. I am very excited to develop my existing relationships, expand to make some new relationships, and to increase my community involvement.”

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John Gannon

John Gannon

Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. announced that attorney John Gannon was named a partner in the firm on Jan. 1. Gannon, who has been with the firm since 2011, focuses his practice on employment litigation, workplace-safety laws and OSHA compliance, enforcing non-competition and confidentiality agreements, and wage-and-hour compliance. He also provides day-to-day advice to businesses with questions about workplace-related issues. “We are thrilled that John has accepted partnership in the firm,” said attorney Marylou Fabbo, a partner at Skoler Abbott. “John has demonstrated the expertise and leadership necessary to provide our clients with the best possible legal service, whether that means taking a case to trial or helping businesses protect their rights and assets.” Gannon is a frequent speaker on employment-related legal topics for a wide variety of associations and organizations, and was selected by BusinessWest as a 40 Under Forty honoree in 2016. He is a member of the Massachusetts, Hampden County, Connecticut, and American bar associations. He also sits on the board of directors for Riverside Industries, a not-for-profit human-services agency that serves people with perceived limitations and disabilities, and Educational Resources for Children, an Enfield nonprofit that provides out-of-school-time programs for children. “I am excited to enter this next phase in my career, and am honored to be a partner in one of the leading labor and employment law firms in the country,” Gannon said. “I look forward to helping the firm further expand its expertise on behalf of our current and future clients, and I’m privileged to be a contributing member to the Pioneer Valley business community for the foreseeable future.”

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Susan Hillis

Susan Hillis

Susan Hillis has been promoted from treatment director to vice president of Clinical Services at AdCare Hospital. “Ms. Hillis has been a vital component of the clinical team at AdCare Hospital for many years,” said Patrice Muchowski, senior vice president of Clinical Services. “As vice president of Clinical Services, Ms. Hillis will be able to redesign existing treatment programming and develop new modalities to ensure that AdCare remains a leader in substance-use treatment.” A licensed independent clinical social worker, Hillis has served as treatment director since 2006. Prior positions include director of Rehabilitation Services at AdCare Hospital and director of AdCare Outpatient Services offices in Worcester and Boston. She received the 2015 Massachusetts Assoc. of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors’ Robert Logue President’s Award for her long-standing support of membership and her dedication to substance-use treatment, recovery, and professional credentialing in Massachusetts. A former board member and chair of the Massachusetts Professional Recovery System, she currently oversees clinical practicums for students in the Addiction Counselor Education program at AdCare, and provides clinical supervision for students in MSW programs at a number of schools. Hillis presents frequently on substance-use related topics such as “Addiction 101,” “Co-occurring Disorders,” “Motivational Interviewing,” and “Designer Drugs” to community, school, and professional organizations locally, regionally, and nationally. She holds a master’s degree in social work from Boston College and an undergraduate degree in music therapy from Anna Maria College in Paxton.

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Kailee Wilson

Kailee Wilson

Robinson Donovan, P.C. promoted former law clerk Kailee Wilson to the role of associate attorney following her admission to both the Massachusetts and Connecticut bars. Wilson is a 2017 graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Law. While attending law school, she also interned with the school’s Tax Clinic, gaining skills and insights that have proven invaluable to her current business practice. In addition, she is now a member of the Massachusetts Bar Assoc., the Hampden County Bar Assoc., and the Connecticut Bar Assoc. “Kailee had a very successful year at Robinson Donovan, P.C., and we are thrilled that she is expanding her role at our firm,” said Partner James Martin. “Kailee has been a real asset to our firm, and we look forward to her having a successful career here.” Wilson assists clients in the areas of business and corporate counseling, commercial real estate, and estate planning. Outside of work, she channels her passion for advocacy into her role as a volunteer coach with the Special Olympics and in the Alumni in Admissions program for her alma mater, Bates College.

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Tara Brewster

Tara Brewster

Greenfield Savings Bank promoted Tara Brewster to vice president of Business Development. Her position includes developing long-term strategies for business development and outreach to perspective customers, including small businesses and individuals for lending and account services. She joined GSB as a Business Development specialist in late 2016. “Tara’s efforts to expand the bank’s portfolio of small-business customers and individuals have been very successful,” said John Howland, president and CEO of Greenfield Savings Bank. “Her more than 20 years of experience in small-business management has given her great insight into the needs of local businesses.” In addition to her duties at the bank, Brewster is active in volunteering on the committees and boards of a wide range of community organizations, including Northampton Chamber of Commerce board of directors, Hampshire Regional YMCA board, Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board, Downtown Northampton Assoc. board, Northampton Redevelopment Authority committee, North Star Self Directed Learning for Teens development committee, Community Health Center of Franklin County marketing committee, as a Northampton Chamber of Commerce ambassador, and as chair of the Pedalmotion for Locomotion Look Park fund-raising event. Before joining the Bank, Brewster worked for independent small businesses and multi-million-dollar companies, including seven years as owner of Jackson & Connor in downtown Northampton and in a wide range of management positions including manager, promotions director, buyer, regional sales manager, and East Coast account executive. She is a graduate of Smith College.

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Theresa Curry has been named executive director of Planned Giving at UMass Amherst. Curry, an attorney, has extensive experience in business and organizational development, nonprofit giving, and gift administration. “We are delighted that Theresa Curry will be joining UMass Amherst’s development team,” said Vice Chancellor of Development and Alumni Relations Mike Leto. “She brings deep expertise in estate planning to this role, as well as her considerable impact and success in fund-raising for higher education.” Curry comes to UMass Amherst from the University of New Hampshire Foundation, where she held several senior management positions in gift planning since 2012. Most recently, she served as assistant vice president for Gift Planning and Administration at UNH. She established UNH’s gift-planning program and played a major role in its recent $275 million fund-raising campaign. Previously, Curry established gift-planning programs as regional director of Philanthropy at the ALS Assoc. and as the capital campaign manager for Merrimack College. She has worked as an employee, consultant, volunteer, and lawyer in gift planning since 1998. She holds a juris doctor degree from the William Mitchell College of Law in Saint Paul, Minn., and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Minnesota. She is also a triathlete and distance runner.

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Packaging prepress provider CSW Inc. announced a strategic re-shaping of company leadership. Longtime company President Laura Wright has transitioned to a new role as CEO. “My grandfather founded CSW in 1937, and I’m proud to continue moving us forward,” she said. “Although I will continue to actively manage all aspects of the company, I decided to share the day-to-day decision making with someone I trust. This lets me address long-term strategies for company growth.” That trusted advisor is new company President Scott Ellison, formerly CSW’s vice president of Sales. Ellison brings more than 15 years of executive leadership experience, including five years in the packaging industry, to CSW. He will manage sales, marketing, customer service, operations, IT, and R&D. According to Wright, “Scott comes to us with new ideas developed from both inside and outside our industry, and has already identified and pursued new growth opportunities for CSW.” Rounding out the organizational shift is former director of Graphics Marek Skrzynski’s new position as technical director. CSW has a long-standing reputation for producing creative solutions to package printing challenges, Wright said. Ellison noted that “Marek has been instrumental to the development of innovations such as WhiteFX ink transfer, X-Color EG separations, and 3D visualization services. This new role allows him to focus on expanding new initiatives such as Web2Plate, an automated prepress workflow for narrow to wide web flexo printers.” Added Wright, “CSW has thrived for over 80 years, thanks to our ability to creatively adapt to our client’s changing needs. These changes are realigning us once again so we can continue to succeed for another 80 — or longer.”

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Springfield College announced that Brooke Hallowell has been named dean of the School of Health Sciences and Rehabilitation Studies. As dean, Hallowell will collaborate with leadership of other divisions and units of Springfield College to participate in strategic planning and implementation activities that further the overall mission of the institution. She will oversee academic areas within her school, including physical and occupational therapy, physician assistant, health science, emergency medical services management, communication disorders, and rehabilitation counseling and disability studies. She will be responsible for assurance of quality of programming in line with student needs, institutional mission, and the requirements of applicable accreditation bodies. According to Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Martha Potvin, “Dr. Hallowell will play a pivotal role in working with faculty to advance education across a broad array of health sciences and professions and to extend the college’s impact on global healthcare issues that we face both in our local and regional communities as well as abroad.” Hallowell has held several academic leadership positions and has a global reputation in advancing research and scholarship and fostering successful interdisciplinary initiatives. Most recently, she served as the founding executive director of the Collaborative on Aging and the coordinator of graduate and undergraduate gerontology certificate programs at Ohio University. She also held several other positions at Ohio University, including associate dean for research and sponsored programs in the College of Health and Human Services; director of the School of Hearing, Speech and Language Sciences; and coordinator of Ph.D. programs for the School of Rehabilitation and Communication Sciences. She also served as director of the School of Languages and Linguistics at the University of Northern California. Hallowell received a Ph.D in neuropathologies of language and speech from the University of Iowa, a master’s degree in speech language pathology and audiology from Lamar University, and a bachelor’s degree in cognitive science/psycholinguistics from Brown University. She also studied at the Conservatoire National de France in Paris and Rouen.

Daily News

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Savings Bank promoted Tara Brewster to vice president of Business Development. Her position includes developing long-term strategies for business development and outreach to perspective customers, including small businesses and individuals for lending and account services. She joined GSB as a Business Development specialist in late 2016.

“Tara’s efforts to expand the bank’s portfolio of small-business customers and individuals have been very successful,” said John Howland, president and CEO of Greenfield Savings Bank. “Her more than 20 years of experience in small-business management has given her great insight into the needs of local businesses.”

In addition to her duties at the bank, Brewster is active in volunteering on the committees and boards of a wide range of community organizations, including Northampton Chamber of Commerce board of directors, Hampshire Regional YMCA board, Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board, Downtown Northampton Assoc. board, Northampton Redevelopment Authority committee, North Star Self Directed Learning for Teens development committee, Community Health Center of Franklin County marketing committee, as a Northampton Chamber of Commerce ambassador, and as chair of the Pedalmotion for Locomotion Look Park fund-raising event.

Before joining the Bank, Brewster worked for independent small businesses and multi-million-dollar companies, including seven years as owner of Jackson & Connor in downtown Northampton and in a wide range of management positions including manager, promotions director, buyer, regional sales manager, and East Coast account executive. She is a graduate of Smith College.

Daily News

BOSTON — Surging optimism about the state and national economies left Massachusetts employers with their highest level of confidence in 18 years as 2017 drew to a close.

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index rose one point to 63.6 during December, its highest level since November 2000. The BCI gained 3.2 points during a year in which employer confidence levels remained comfortably within the optimistic range.

Every element of the overall index increased during 2017 except for the Employment Index, which dropped a half-point. Analysts believe low unemployment and demographic shifts are impeding the ability of employers to find the workers they need.

“Massachusetts employers maintained a uniformly positive outlook throughout 2017, and passage of the federal tax bill only added to that optimism,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. “At the same time, the 12-month decline in the Employment Index reminds us that the persistent shortage of skilled workers has reached an inflection point for the Massachusetts economy. Massachusetts companies have postponed expansions, declined to bid for contracts, or outsourced work because they simply can’t find people.”

The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009. It has remained above 50 since October 2013.

The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index were mostly higher during December. The Massachusetts Index, assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth, surged 2.4 points to 67.6, leaving it 5.8 points better than a year earlier. The U.S. Index of national business conditions continued a yearlong rally by gaining two points to 64.2. December marked the 94th consecutive month in which employers have been more optimistic about the Massachusetts economy than the national economy.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, decreased 0.7 points to 62.7, while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, rose 2.7 points to 64.5. The Current Index gained 3.6 points and the Future Index 2.8 points during 2017.

The Company Index, reflecting employer views of their own operations and prospects, declined 0.2 points to 62.1. The Employment Index rose slightly to 56.7, but still ended the year 0.5 points below the 57.2 posted in December 2016.

Manufacturing companies (64.3) continued to be more optimistic than non-manufacturers (62.6). Another unusual result was that employers in Western Mass. (64.6) posted higher confidence readings than those in the eastern portion of the Commonwealth (62.7).

“Employer attitudes largely reflect a national economy that grew at its fastest pace in three years during the third quarter on the strength of business spending on equipment. The headline is that unemployment is down and the financial markets are up,” said Michael Tyler, chief investment officer at Eastern Bank Wealth Management and a BEA member.

AIM President and CEO Richard Lord, also BEA member, said employers received an early Christmas present from a federal tax bill that reduced corporate rates from 35% to 21% and reduced rates for pass-through entities such as subchapter S-corporations as well.

“The tax bill produced short-term benefits, ranging from companies like Comcast and Citizens Financial providing bonuses to employees to the utility Eversource reducing electric rates in Massachusetts,” Lord said. “At the same time, employers are cautious about the effect that other provisions — including limitations on the deduction for state and local taxes — will have on the overall Massachusetts economy.”

Education Sections

Life’s Work

Lisa Rapp

Lisa Rapp says many biotech students find inspiration in the fact that their work may someday make a difference — for example, in developing a key new drug.

For college students — or career changers — seeking a career path with plenty of opportunity close to home, biotechnology in Massachusetts is certainly enjoying an enviable wave.

For example, drug research and development — one key field in the broad world of biotech — has been surging in Massachusetts for well over a decade, and isn’t slowing down, according to the annual report released in November by the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, or MassBio.

According to that report, Massachusetts has more jobs classified as biotechnology R&D than any other state (see table below), with 34,366 currently employed — a 40% increase since 2007 — barely edging out California, a state with six times the Bay State’s population, and a well-defined high-tech landscape.

Meanwhile, the total number of biopharma workers in Massachusetts rose by nearly 5% in 2016, to 66,053, a 28% growth rate since 2007, which was the year former Gov. Deval Patrick launched a 10-year, $1 billion life-sciences investment program. More recently, Gov. Charlie Baker renewed the state’s commitment to the industry when he announced a five-year, $500 million ‘life sciences 2.0’ initiative.

stateemploytrendsbiotech0118a

“Massachusetts is historically one of the first states that got into biotechnology, then Deval Patrick made a real financial commitment, and provided funding, to try to keep it here,” said Lisa Rapp, who chairs the associate-degree Biotechnology program at Springfield Technical Community College, adding that Cambridge has long been the key hub, but biotech companies can be found throughout the Commonwealth.

Still, while the industry is growing rapidly, Rapp noted that biotechnology often is not on the radar of people considering their career options. Biotechnology encompasses a broad range of applications that use living organisms such as cells and bacteria to make useful products. Current applications of biotechnology include industrial production of pharmaceuticals such as vaccines and insulin, genetic testing, DNA fingerprinting, and genetic engineering of plants.

“I don’t think many students are aware how many jobs there are in the state. There are more jobs the farther east you go, but there are absolutely jobs here too,” she said, noting that research and development companies tend to cluster closer to Boston, while Western Mass. tends to be stronger with biomanufacturing.

The research and development job gains come as the state’s collective pipeline of drugs is rapidly expanding. According to the MassBio report, companies headquartered in the state have 1,876 drugs in various stages of development, nearly half of which — 912 — are being tested in human trials. That’s a significant increase from last year, when 1,149 drugs were in development, including 455 in human trials. Treatments for cancer, neurological disorders, and infections are among the most popular.

“There are more opportunities now than ever to get good jobs in Massachusetts,” Rapp said. “The state has the highest concentration of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies in the world.”

“We’re in the middle of a genomic revolution right now, on the cusp of this brave new world,” said Thomas Mennella, associate professor of Biology at Bay Path University, who directs the master’s program in Applied Laboratory Science & Operations, which has become a key graduate degree in the biotech world (more on that later).

“My read on the field is that no one is sure where this is going to go, but everyone believes it’s going somewhere special,” he went on. “This generation now coming out will advance that revolution, and we’re preparing them the best we can to make them as adaptable as possible and follow the flow wherever the field leads.”

Meeting the Need

Since 2012, Rapp said, STCC has received $375,000 in grants to enhance its Biotechnology program, and especially the cutting-edge equipment and supplies on which students learn current techniques in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries.

“Our curriculum is designed to meet the ever-expanding need for trained biotechnology personnel, she added, noting that students who complete the two-year program can apply for jobs in the biopharma industry, or may advance to four-year institutions to pursue higher degrees in biotechnology.

“The career-track associate degree is meant to lead to direct employment in the field, and then we have a transfer track for students looking to transfer to a four-year college and get a bachelor’s degree or additional education,” she told BusinessWest. “It’s about half and half, but the last few years, there has been a little more interest in the transfer pathway.”

Bay Path’s bachelor’s-degree program has evolved over time, Mennella said, first in response to industry talk that students nationally weren’t emerging with high-tech instrumentation skills, and then — when programs morphed to emphasize those skills — that job applicants were highly technically trained, but not thinking scientifically.

“Our degree here is meant to bridge that gap, meet in the middle,” he explaned. “They’re graduating with the best of both worlds.”

But he called the master’s program in Applied Laboratory Science & Operations the “cherry on top of the program,” because it sets up biotech undergrads with the tools they need to manage a lab — from project management to understanding the ethical and legal implications of their work — which, in turn, leads to some of the more lucrative and rewarding areas of their field.

“We’ve packaged four courses together as an online graduate certificate program, so even students who just want to learn how to manage a lab and manage people can take those four online courses as a graduate certificate,” he explained.

The idea, Mennella said, is to make sure graduates are as competitive as they can be, in a field that — like others in Massachusetts, from precision manufacturing to information technology — often has more job opportunities available than qualified candidates. He wants his graduates to demonstrate, within six months to a year, that they can slide into lab-management positions that, in the Bay State, pay a median salary of almost $120,000.

“The state is hungry for highly skilled technicians that can do the day-to-day work to keep the lab running,” he noted. “We want them geared toward the really good technical jobs in this area, but have that second [managerial] purpose in mind. We’re striking both sides of the coin.”

Cool, Fun — and Meaningful

Rapp noted that many students are looking for a challenging role in medical research that doesn’t involve patient contact, and a biotechnology degree is a clear path to such a career.

“Generally, they have some underlying interest in science — they think science is cool and fun, which, of course, it is. And with laboratory jobs, they might have an interest in science and not necessarily in patient care,” she explained. “And they like the hands-on work in a laboratory setting.”

Whether working for pharmaceutical companies, developing and testing new drugs, or for biomanufacturing companies working on medical devices, or even in a forensics lab, opportunities abound, she said.

“I feel like many students want to feel like they’re doing something meaningful here,” Rapp added. “If they’re involved in designing or testing drugs, helping some future patient, I feel that’s a message that reonates with the students — that maybe they’ll be doing a job that helps someone in some way.”

At a recent Biotechnology Career Exploration Luncheon at STCC, professors from area colleges discussed opportunities in the field, and agreed that job reports like the one from MassBio may only scratch the surface when it comes to opportunities in a field that grows more intriguing by the year.

“Biochemistry and molecular-biology principles are critical in a number of growing fields in health and technology,” said Amy Springer, lecturer and chief undergraduate advisor at UMass Amherst. “Having a fundamental knowledge in these topics provides a student with translatable skills suitable for a range of areas, including discovery research, medical diagnostics, treatments and engineering, and environmental science.”

As Mennella said, it’s a brave new world — and a story that’s only beginning to unfold.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Company Notebook Departments

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.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. announced that attorney John Gannon was named a partner in the firm on Jan. 1. Gannon, who has been with the firm since 2011, focuses his practice on employment litigation, workplace-safety laws and OSHA compliance, enforcing non-competition and confidentiality agreements, and wage-and-hour compliance. He also provides day-to-day advice to businesses with questions about workplace-related issues.

“We are thrilled that John has accepted partnership in the firm,” said attorney Marylou Fabbo, a partner at Skoler Abbott. “John has demonstrated the expertise and leadership necessary to provide our clients with the best possible legal service, whether that means taking a case to trial or helping businesses protect their rights and assets.”

Gannon is a frequent speaker on employment-related legal topics for a wide variety of associations and organizations, and was selected by BusinessWest as a 40 Under Forty honoree in 2016. He is a member of the Massachusetts, Hampden County, Connecticut, and American bar associations. He also sits on the board of directors for Riverside Industries, a not-for-profit human-services agency that serves people with perceived limitations and disabilities, and Educational Resources for Children, an Enfield nonprofit that provides out-of-school-time programs for children.

“I am excited to enter this next phase in my career, and am honored to be a partner in one of the leading labor and employment law firms in the country,” Gannon said. “I look forward to helping the firm further expand its expertise on behalf of our current and future clients, and I’m privileged to be a contributing member to the Pioneer Valley business community for the foreseeable future.”

Daily News

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.

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates decreased in four labor market areas, increased in nine areas, and remained the same in 11 labor-market areas in the state during the month of November, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Compared to November 2016, the rates were up in 24 labor-market areas.

Eight of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains in November. The gains occurred in the Springfield, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Worcester, Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, New Bedford, Taunton-Middleborough-Norton, Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, and Framingham areas.

From November 2016 to November 2017, all 15 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Barnstable, New Bedford, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Springfield, and Lynn-Saugus-Marblehead areas.

In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide-unadjusted unemployment rate for November was 3.3%.

Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 3.6% in the month of November. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 6,700-job gain in November, and an over-the-year gain of 65,200 jobs.

The unadjusted unemployment rates and job estimates for the labor market areas reflect seasonal fluctuations and therefore may show different levels and trends than the statewide seasonally adjusted estimates. The estimates for labor force, unemployment rates, and jobs for Massachusetts are based on different statistical methodology specified by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.