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The Casino Era

The Final Countdown

Alex Dixon stands just outside the entrance to the hotel at MGM Springfield

Alex Dixon stands just outside the entrance to the hotel at MGM Springfield, which is nearly ready for prime time and the Aug. 24 opening.

The almost decade-long process of opening the state’s first resort casino is entering its final days. There is a beehive of activity in Springfield’s South End, and that represents only what people can actually see. The process of not only opening the facility on schedule, but “making this place special,” as General Manager Alex Dixon described it, is humbling and exhilarating at the same time.

12,704.

That’s how many “discrete tasks” Alex Dixon said he and the ever-growing team at MGM Springfield must complete before the $950 million facility can open its doors to the public at 11 a.m. on Aug. 24.

12,704!

Not ‘more than 12,000.’ Not ‘12,700 or so.’

12,704. And you thought you had a lot of lines on your ‘to-do’ list.

“And those are just the things we thought about as we put together our critical paths,” said Dixon, general manager of MGM Springfield, who managed to find a few moments to speak with BusinessWest late last month (and he had to work hard at it). He couldn’t say how many of those tasks he and his team had drawn a proverbial line through, but he hinted strongly that, while considerable progress has been made, there were still quite a few (thousand) to go.

The giant MGM Springfield sign above the massive parking garage

The giant MGM Springfield sign above the massive parking garage is the latest addition to the Springfield skyline.

But he also spoke with the utmost confidence about getting it all done, primarily because of the team that’s been put in place.

“When you think about the breakdown of those numbers, it’s a lot,” he said, putting heavy emphasis on that last word, not that he really needed to. “But we’ve got a great project-management process, we’ve done this before in other jurisdictions, we have a lot of people who are seasoned and know what they’re doing, and we have a very experienced and highly trained management team.”

As for those discrete tasks, they cover 45 different “work streams,” as Dixon called them, and 431 key milestones, many, if not most of them, already met. And they come in every size and shape, from having permits in place for each of the restaurants to meeting the required numbers for each of dozens of categories within the MGM Springfield workforce; from the thousands of items on the construction checklist to making sure the warehouse in Chicopee is stocked with everything it needs to be stocked with.

Overall, Dixon described the process of opening MGM on time — meaning with those 12,704 tasks completed and all licenses and permits and employees in place — as humbling, but also exciting and exhilarating. But he kept stressing that opening the doors on schedule is just one part of the story — and one part of the challenge.

Indeed, he said he’s not losing sleep worrying about getting everything done by Aug. 24. But what does keep him at night — sort of, but not really — are the other two main categories for all those discreet tasks: ‘the things that will make this a great customer experience’ and ‘how do we make this special?’

“We’ll open our doors at 11 o’clock on August 24 — that was never a question,” he explained. “We’re in ‘how do we make this place special?’ mode. We’re going to open, but we’re also going to have a great customer experience. The things that keep me up at night are making sure that we deliver on the promise of a phenomenal entertainment.

“You want to be unique, you want to stand out; I want to compete, and I want to win,” he went on, referring to the considerable competition MGM Springfield will face. “And our team does, too; that’s what motivates me, and it’s what motivates all of us.”

For this issue, one of the last in the pre-MGM era, BusinessWest talked with Dixon about the daunting process of opening the doors, and also about what will happen in Springfield on Aug. 24 and the days to follow.

He couldn’t — or at least he didn’t want to — make projections on how many people will come through the doors on opening day. But he expected the facility to reach full capacity (10,000 people in the casino) and for Springfield to see a day probably unlike any other in its history.

“There has been a tremendous amount of pent-up demand for some time now,” he said, referring to the almost-decade-long task of getting the state’s first resort casino up and running. “We are preparing to make sure that we can do our best to help satiate that demand on opening day.”

Task Masters

As he talked with BusinessWest about these final few days until opening, but also the long, character-building process of getting to this point, Dixon said MGM Springfield has essentially evolved from a startup company with a handful of employees (granted, one with a billion-dollar construction project unfolding around them) into one of the region’s largest employers.

The metamorphosis has come slowly and greatly accelerated over the past several months, to the point where it’s much harder for him to keep track of additions to the staff and putting names with faces. But the culture that was created when the company was a handful of people working on the ninth floor of Monarch Place, and later MGM’s headquarters on State Street, still prevails today.

“You walk through the hall, you meet a new face, and they may not know who you are,” he noted. “So the small things you did at the very beginning to build a great culture with that small group are important; we’re doing our best to make sure we have the right structures and processes in place to ensure that this culture emanates to the 3,000 we’ll be welcoming over the next few weeks.”

Together, this growing team is drawing lines through items on the ‘discrete tasks’ list, dozens, if not hundreds a day, said Dixon, adding, again, that the process of doing so is as exhilarating as it is daunting.

When asked what a typical day is like, he gave the expected answer — there is no such thing, or words to that effect.

But he said there are some common denominators, such as the starting time — 6 a.m. — with a daily briefing from MGM on news stories that impact the company and individual properties across the country.

MGM has made great progress toward completing the 12,704 (and counting)

Alex Dixon says MGM has made great progress toward completing the 12,704 (and counting) tasks needed to get the casino and the rest of the complex open by Aug. 24.

“And as you can imagine, as of late, we’re driving a lot of news, especially with the properties in Las Vegas,” he told BusinessWest. “That’s always a great wake-up call; you read the news locally, but also read the news that’s impacting the business.”

From there, he’s often off to a meeting with one of the many groups he’s involved with within the community, such as the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau’s executive committee breakfast session he attended the day he spoke with BusinessWest. He prefers to keep such community work in the morning so as to free up the remaining hours for his day job — or his long-day job, the way things are going.

When he talked with BusinessWest, Dixon referenced hour-long meetings with members of the executive team to address what he called ‘mission-critical items.’ Then, they were meeting three times a week. Soon (if not already), there will be a session a day.

“These are things we need to execute on,” he explained. “And it requires some degree of acceleration or just an intense level of focus to get us over the hump.”

Labor of Love

As an example, he mentioned “fallout” in a particular job category, a situation where the company is struggling to make hires. In such an instance, and there have been some, the team will work closely with the human-resources director and the leader of the department in question to ramp up efforts to address the situation.

Hiring is obviously one huge component of the process of getting things ready for Aug. 24, said Dixon, adding that 3,000 people have to be brought on board across several dozen different positions. But to get to 3,000, MGM actually needs to have a higher number of people in position to be hired, he explained.

“Once you make a job offer, there will be some people who just don’t show up,” he noted, adding that this is a hospitality-industry-wide issue, not something unique to MGM Springfield. “Just because you offer someone a job, they don’t really work until they show up that first day and get into their position.

“That’s the case across the board in many of our front-line positions,” he went on. “So what we’ve done, in some cases, is over-hire to account for some of that attrition, be it in security, beverage servers, or table-games dealers.”

But hiring covers only a portion of those 12,704 discrete tasks, said Dixon, who said they cover three basic “journeys,” as he called them — ‘customer,’ ‘employee,’ and ‘supplier’ — with the ultimate objective of earning an operating certificate from the Mass. Gaming Commission.

To get that certificate, MGM Springfield has a long list of things it has to satisfy in order to show that it is ready to welcome customers safely and appropriately — and also account for the revenue it is expected to generate for the state.

“This is a big business for the Commonwealth,” he explained. “Our regulators are on-site, and we have to satisfy a laundry list of things in order to prove we’re worthy of that operating certificate.”

He offered some examples:

• The casino must make sure the slot machines are “talking” to the central system monitored by the Gaming Commission to ensure the integrity of the games;

• All of the cameras must be approved by the commission to ensure that the operation has the appropriate oversight of the games and other areas within the complex;

• The commission also must approve the internal controls that MGM Springfield operates against so that the operation can be held accountable;

• The commission also makes sure the operation has all the needed licenses from local agencies, for everything from pouring alcohol to serving food; and

• The security plan must be approved to ensure the operation is adequately securing the facility as well as the Commonwealth’s assets.

It’s Getting Real

As opening day draws closer, the team at MGM will take the process of being ready to a different, higher level, said Dixon, referring to what he called ‘play days’ and other types of dress rehearsals for the real thing.

And these auditions will set the stage for what are known as ‘test nights’ (that will be publically announced), during which the operation’s performance will ultimately determine whether the state grants that coveted operating license.

“At those activities, we have to simulate what it is like to operate with real money and be able to perform these functions,” Dixon explained. “The Gaming Commission is assessing our ability to execute those functions in a controlled environment. That’s the big, substantive, last step before we are issued that operating certificate.”

As for what he’s seeing in Springfield now, as opposed to when he arrived 18 months ago, and what he expects to see after the casino opens, Dixon said there has been a metamorphosis there as well, especially when it comes to perceived attitudes about the casino.

“It’s been fascinating to see how things have shifted, from doubt in some cases — ‘is this really going to happen?’ — to ambivalence in other cases, to quietly watching, to trepidation, to what you see now, which is excitement.

“Whether you see people buying their tickets to see Stevie Wonder [who will appear at the MassMutual Center on Sept. 1] to people coaching up a son, daughter, niece, or nephew for an interview, or hearing the excitement of someone getting their first job or getting back into the workforce … it’s fascinating to see the progression.”

Meanwhile, he said that one doesn’t have to wait til Aug. 24 to witness the impact MGM Springfield is already having in Springfield’s downtown.

“If you walk along Main Street around noon, you see the streets teeming with people,” he noted. “They’re well-dressed, new haircuts, looking good, sharp — and friendly. You see the impact of 3,000 people, and we haven’t even onboarded everyone. You see the streets come alive with energy.

“Downtown has been defined by the absence of people after hours,” he went on. “Now, we’ll be defined by the presence of people; and this will be people from Springfield, but also surrounding communities, and people who haven’t been to Springfield in a while. I just can’t wait for people who will walk into our facility and walk into downtown Springfield and have this immense level of pride, not just in MGM, but in the city and the region.”

On Aug. 24, there will be a parade down Main Street an hour or so before the facility officially opens at 11 a.m., he said, adding that it will involve employees, dignitaries, and some entertainers from within the MGM family.

After that? He said National Harbor, the $1.5 billion casino in Maryland that MGM opened roughly 18 months ago, reached full capacity within hours of opening. And MGM is preparing for just such a contingency.

“Knock on wood, we can only hope we’ve got more demand than what we’re able to accommodate in the building,” he said, echoing a belief certainly shared by the city, the region, and the Gaming Commission.

Playing the Numbers

Getting back to his sleeping patterns as Aug. 24 draws closer, Dixon said there are obviously days when he rests better than others.

“The hours are getting shorter,” he said, adding, again, that the ever-growing team working draw lines through those 12,704 discrete tasks are working simultaneously on hundreds on individual assignments, but also the very big picture.

“It’s truly amazing; it takes every individual person on this team to take care of their silo, but also keep their head above water enough to look horizontally and make sure we’re coming together in a cohesive manner.”

It all about the journey, or journeys, Dixon said, adding that the plural is most definitely needed, as they work as a unit toward a common goal — not just opening the doors on time, but making the place special.

And that’s why this process is as exhilarating as it is daunting.

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

Features

Bridging the Digital Divide

Aneesh Raman says business owners think Facebook, with its 2.2 billion users worldwide, is a valuable tool — even if they don’t always know how best to use it.

According to a 2017 survey, said Raman, who manages Facebook’s global economic-impact programs, more than 60% of small businesses in Massachusetts said Facebook is essential to their business, and 76% said the social-media platform helps them find customers in other cities, states, and countries.

“That’s encouraging data, but as you talk to them, you see a need for more training,” Raman told BusinessWest. “That’s why we’re coming to 30 cities to provide training for small businesses across a range of subjects. No matter what their skill level is — whether businesses are coming online for the first time or are online already — we can help them grow their business.”

Earlier this year, Facebook announced that Springfield had been chosen as one of 30 markets where the company will host its Community Boost program, created to help small businesses, entrepreneurs, and job seekers grow their business and develop new digital skills. Facebook will be in Springfield on Sept. 10-11, presenting workshops on a host of topics yet to be determined.

“Our mission at Facebook is building strong communities, and we believe at the core of strong communities are thriving small businesses,” said Raman, who is also a former journalist who worked as an international correspondent for CNN, as well as a former presidential speechwriter. “Small businesses are the engine of local economies. For years, we have worked with them, trained them online and offline, and helped them grow their business and help them hire more employees.”

Since 2011, he noted, Facebook has invested more than $1 billion to support small businesses. Community Boost is simply a more visible and direct method of doing so, and will focus on small-business training and digital acumen in general, rather than simply promoting Facebook, Raman said.

“Small businesses are the engine of local economies. For years, we have worked with them, trained them online and offline, and helped them grow their business and help them hire more employees.”

During its visits to 30 cities — including Houston, St. Louis, Minneapolis, San Diego, Pittsburgh, and many other metro areas much larger than Springfield — Facebook representatives will take a three-pronged approach to economic development, working with local organizations to provide digital skills and training for people in need of work, advising entrepreneurs how to get started, and helping existing businesses and nonprofits get the most out of the internet.

A broad survey conducted by Morning Consult and co-sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Facebook suggests that small businesses’ use of social media is creating new opportunities. For instance, in Massachusetts, 62% of surveyed businesses said Facebook is essential for their business; 76% said Facebook allows them to find customers in other cities, states, and countries; and 69% said they believe an individual’s digital and social-media skills are important when hiring.

A lot of people use Facebook for business reasons, but never any kind of training how to do it. They’re on their own,” said Paul Robbins, president of Paul Robbins Associets in Wilbraham and a communications consultant for Community Boost in Springfield.

“People feel like they’ve got this tool, but they don’t know how to use it, especially small businesses,” he went on. “Here in Springfield, we’ve got a very diverse community with a lot of small businesses. Even not-for-profits can take advantage of this free seminar. Anybody can come. The idea is to help people leverage it as a business tool.”

Logging On

Facebook pledged this year to train 1 million individuals and small business owners across the U.S. in digital and social-media skills by 2020. To do that, it will expand its in-person training programs, create more local partnerships, and build more e-learning resources.

The company cites projections that a skilled-labor shortage in America could create 85.2 million unfilled jobs by 2030, and says it is committed to helping close that skills gap and provide more people and business owners with the educational resources they need to advance at work, find new jobs, or run their companies.

Details on Springfield’s Community Boost event, which is free and open to small business and nonprofits, aren’t set yet; Facebook plans to announce a place, times, and course list at www.facebook.com/business/m/community-boost as September gets closer.

“The goal of the program isn’t to come and leave, but to kick off conversations,” Raman said, noting that Facebook has been talking to businesses and economic-development leaders on a specific program that best meets identified needs for small-business and digital-skills training in the Pioneer Valley.

“Small businesses and workers know they need skills. But they don’t always have help getting those skills,” he went on. “Once we know what the professional needs are, we’ll announce the registration date and courses online.”

According to the Morning Consult research, small businesses’ use of digital tools translates into new jobs and opportunities for communities across the country. And small businesses are the key driver, creating an estimated four out of every five new jobs in the U.S.

The survey revealed that 80% of U.S. small and medium-sized businesses on Facebook say the platform helps them connect to people in their local community, while one in three businesses on Facebook say they built their business on the platform, and 42% say they’ve hired more people due to growth since joining Facebook.

Businesses run by African-Americans, Latinos, veterans, and those with a disability are twice as likely to say that their business was built on Facebook, and one and a half times more likely to say they’ve hired more people since joining the platform.

Raman said small businesses have expressed a desire to learn more about using Facebook and Instagram, the photo- and video-sharing service owned by Facebook. “But we’re teaching skills that apply to any digital platform out there.”

After all, Robbins noted, “not everyone is digitally savvy. A small business may not have the digital skills people assume everyone has. Facebook is trying to demystify it to people, so they’re not afraid of it.”

Getting Social

Increasingly, businesses are embracing 21-st century modes of building their customer base. The 2017 survey by Morning Consult found that the use of digital platforms by American small businesses is ubiquitous — in fact, 84% of small businesses in the U.S. use at least one major digital platform to provide information to customers, and three out of four small businesses use digital platforms for sales.

Yet, businesses face challenges when it comes to the internet, with 57% of small businesses saying lack of familiarity with available digital tools is a challenge.

“At Facebook, we see a big opportunity to make a difference in partnership with local organizations and local officials,” Raman told BusinessWest. “We really do think there’s a skills gap, and by closing that, we can help expand economic opportunity in Springfield and across the country.”

But it’s not just employers the Community Boost program aims to reach. For job seekers, the program will provide training to help improve their digital and social-media skills. According to the research, 62% percent of U.S. small businesses using Facebook said digital or social-media skills are an important factor in their hiring decisions — even more important than where a candidate went to school.

Community Boost will also offer entrepreneurs training programs on how to use technology to turn an idea into a business, as well as ways to create a free online presence using Facebook.

And, of course, business owners will learn how to expand their digital footprint and find new customers around the corner and around the globe. Training will also include education in digital literacy and online safety.

“We also want to teach nonprofits to be part of the programming and how Facebook can help them learn the digital skills they need to increase donations,” Raman said.

Facebook strives to evolve Community Boost based on what it’s learning in its earlier stops. For example, in St. Louis, the first stop on the tour, the company learned exactly how wide the gap is between the digital skills job seekers know they need and the skills they feel they have. In fact, according to a survey there, 93% of job and skills seekers say digital skills are important when looking for job, while only 12% rate themselves highly in this area.

Managers also see gaps in the skills they need to grow their businesses, the St. Louis survey showed. For example, the majority of managers in that city said creating a mobile-friendly interface was important to growing their business, but very few saw themselves as proficient.

Springfield — the only New England stop for Community Boost — may not have the population of the major metropolitan areas on the tour, but Raman says the needs are universal, and Facebook wants a diverse cross-section of cities represented.

“Springfield has a vibrant small-business community with a diverse population,” he noted. “We think we can make a real impact here.”


Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Sections

Driving Change

General Manager Mike Filomeno

General Manager Mike Filomeno

The modern auto dealership — marked by drive-in service areas, well-appointed waiting areas, and high-tech touches — have become standard in the industry, and Ford demands no less of its showrooms. Marcotte Ford, with a 50-year history on Main Street in Holyoke, was especially in need of such a makeover, and the family that owns it is set to unveil its new HQ this summer, bringing the company’s look and feel firmly into the 21st century.

When Marcotte Ford reopens its dealership on Main Street in Holyoke this summer — after a year spent in temporary digs across the street — it will be the culmination of two complementary visions: Ford’s on one hand, and the Marcotte family’s on the other.

“It’s been a long, long road to get where we are today,” said General Manager Mike Filomeno. “Obviously, Ford has a rebranding and a new look that they want, to refresh the whole facility and make it more customer-friendly. Then there are all the touch points we’re going to have — a brand-new shop, all-new equipment, indoor delivery areas for the customers to pick up their cars, all kinds of new technology to make the experience more user-friendly.

“It’s like a McDonald’s,” he went on. “Do you want to go to the old McDonald’s or the brand-new one that has the wi-fi and the TVs and the multiple drive-thru lanes? That’s the philosophy. People want to go someplace that’s new. They want new technology and a new experience.”

What both Ford and the Marcotte family are looking for is the fulfillment of two goals that seem contradictory, but really aren’t, and are being reflected in dealership remodels across all brands: to make it easier and quicker for customers to get in and out when buying or servicing a vehicle, but also making the space more welcoming during the time they have to be there.

To get to that point, Marcotte has spent the last year doing business across the street, in the former location of Gary Rome Hyundai, which relocated to a much larger lot on Whiting Farms Road in 2016.

It’s been cramped, Filomeno said, but much better than working out of temporary trailers. To ease the burden on a smaller service area, Marcotte has sent much of its heavy-duty repair work down the street to its commercial truck center, which opened in 2015.

“When this became available, we ended up buying this place,” Filomeno said. “That was perfect timing. It was empty for a while, and we reached out to Gary Rome and talked to him about renting some space, and he needed to do something as well. So we made a deal last June to move over here.”

Come this summer, the year spent in cramped quarters will have been worth it, Filomeno said, with the opening of the 40,000-square-foot, $8 million facility, which will include a 24-bay service area, including a dedicated space for vehicle inspections. As for the former Rome location, it will become Marcotte’s commercial-sales location, bringing to four (along with the neighboring Paper City Car Wash) the number of Marcotte-owned properties along a half-mile stretch of Route 5.

“We haven’t had that prime A location in the automotive world, as far as being on Riverdale Road or King Street in Northampton, where there are multiple franchises and people can go to one from another,” he noted. “But we have been a destination dealer, and we’ve done that by taking care of the customers, having good employees, and going the extra mile for people.”

New Look … and Taste

Doing all that will be easier in the redesigned Marcotte Ford headquarters, which reflects the types of features Ford demands in all its new stores, Filomeno said.

“They want to have the branding in the façade out front, and they want all the touch points to be user-friendly,” he explained. “We’ll have the indoor drive-through, where you bring in your car and drop it off, and service will come out to you to write it up. We’ll have a customer waiting area with a big TV there, and wi-fi hotspots where they can sit while they’re in the customer lounge.”

On the service side, customers have long been able to get a loaner vehicle when they bring their car or truck in for service, and Marcotte will continue with that service, he added, while employees will appreciate the state-of-the-art, climate-controlled shop decked out with new equipment.

The company is especially excited about LugNutz Café, a restaurant that existed in the former building, but will be significantly expanded in the new one.

LugNutz Café initially served breakfast two days a week for employees and customers, but will be expanding to breakfast and lunch six days a week, featuring sandwiches, wraps, soups, pizzas, and breakfast items like omelettes.

“Bryan came up with the idea, and people loved it,” Filomeno said. “With all the employees we have all day long, come lunchtime around here, we have Chinese, pizzas, and grinders being delivered here, or people going out for food. Now they’ll be able to eat right here. That’s another good service that people will enjoy — I think it’ll be a wow factor.”

Company President Mike Marcotte said customers will appreciate the new touches, from the drive-through service lane to interactive screens in the sales offices to help them quickly access information.

Marcotte expects to unveil its 40,000-square-foot renovation in August, followed by a September grand opening.

Marcotte expects to unveil its 40,000-square-foot renovation in August, followed by a September grand opening.

“The building was 50 years old, and we’ve added on, but now it was time to do a refresh,” he said. “It’s definitely more customer-oriented, with better flow and more technology.”

Filomeno said the dealership aims to be different because other Ford dealers have a similar look. “So we’re making it our own with the LugNutz and some of the other things we’re doing to make ourselves stand out.

“It’s more than the tile and furniture Ford wants,” he went on. “We’re looking forward to some new ways to do business, taking care of the customer, getting them in and out of here, both on the service and the sales side. People want to come in and buy a car in an hour and get through it. They don’t want to wait four hours. So that’s what we’re migrating toward.”

Marcotte agreed. “We feel like buying a car should be a fun experience, not stressful, even though it’s most people’s second-biggest purchase after their house,” he said.

It’s also a different sales experience than it used to be, thanks to the internet. “People do a lot more research before coming in, before they even contact us,” Marcotte noted, noting that the visit is still crucial, because vehicles today are so loaded with high-tech safety equipment and other features that customers still want someone to demonstrate everything they might be able to utilize.

The new facility will reflect those high-tech advances as well, Filomeno said. “Our vision is to have the grand opening come the fall, once we’re fully established, and have a soft opening around August. We have to get in there and get everything working.”

Family Legacy

Marcotte’s grandfather, Al, opened his namesake dealership in 1961 at a different site in Holyoke before moving to its long-time location on Route 5 in 1967. Bryan eventually joined the team, followed by Mike a generation later. Today, the dealership employs a number of other family members, including Filomeno, who married into the Marcotte clan.

It’s a company with not only family ties, but deep community roots as well, Filomeno said, noting that Marcotte Ford has supported a number of local nonprofits over the years, from Kate’s Kitchen and Providence Ministries to the baseball teams customers’ kids play on.

“You can only do so much, but we try to be as generous as we can because it does make a difference,” he added. “You’ve got to support the community you work in. So we’ve made a conscious effort to make sure we do that on a regular basis.”

With a 56-year history behind it, Marcotte said, the dealership felt it was past time to make the changes almost ready to be unveiled across the street.

“We’ve been looking at this for several years,” he said, noting that it’s a good time to reinvest, with sales — particularly the truck business and the commercial side — booming.

“Business has been good. We’re just always trying to find ways to find more business,” Filomeno noted, adding, however, that he’s unsure how people will react to Ford’s decision to discontinue some lines.

“That’s a challenge for us, because people are asking why and what’s going on, but I think they’re trying to get rid of some of the less-profitable cars and concentrate on more of the profitable items and come out with some new products. There’s a new Echo Sport, we’re going to have new Rangers, some new Broncos coming in.”

Meanwhile, people’s driving habits are different than before, with younger drivers more willing to rideshare and use public transportation — not to mention the prospect of autonomous cars, which may someday significantly impact people’s decision to even own a car. So it’s important, he said, for dealers and manufacturers to anticipate possible trends while continuing to focus on what they do well.

“There’s some uncertainty as far as what’s coming, but our bread and butter has been the truck line and SUV line, and that has been very strong,” he said. “There have been other changes in the industry, too. Right now gas is going up a little, and interest rates are going up a little. People have been spoiled for years, when we gave them 2%, 1%, 0% financing, and, that’s not always there now. You have to just adapt.”

With 142 team members across all facets of the company, there’s been plenty of adapting and moving around while the main site has been given over to construction over the past year, Marcotte said, adding, however, that employee morale has remained high during the transition.

That’s important, Filomeno added, because, while the internet has helped the company sell outside the local market, it’s still a company built on customer service.

“Although Ford has got a great product, you can’t say you’ll never have a problem with a car,” he told BusinessWest. “But if you do, we try to make that experience as positive as we can. That’s been the forte of our business model all along.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hub of Activity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These pieces include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Destination: Greenfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chamber Corners Departments

1BERKSHIRE

www.1berkshire.com

(413) 499-1600

• May 16: Chamber Nite & BYP Networking Social, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Dalton Union, 395 Main St., Dalton. Join us for our joint May Chamber Nite and BYP Social at Union Block in downtown Dalton with participating businesses: Hot Harry’s, Berkshire Dream Home, Therapeutic Massage & Wellness, Academy Mortgage Corp., Horace Mann Insurance, McMahon & Vigeant, P.C., Wheeler & Taylor Insurance, Dalton Restaurant, New England Dynamark Security, and 2 Flights Up Dance & Game Studio. Cost: free. Register online at www.1berkshire.com.

GREATER CHICOPEE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.chicopeechamber.org

(413) 594-2101

• May 16: Salute Breakfast, 7:15-9 a.m., at Munich Haus, 13 Center St., Chicopee. Chief greeter: Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos. Keynote Speaker: Kim Kenney-Rockwal, Elms MBA. 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.

• May 18: Chicopee Chamber of Commerce Annual Golf Tournament, 10 a.m. shotgun start, hosted by Chicopee Country Club, 1290 Burnett Road, Chicopee. Presented by Polish National Credit Union. Sponsored by Gaudreau Group, First American Insurance Agency Inc., Westfield Bank, Holyoke Medical Center, Poly-Plating Inc., N. Riley Construction, Hampton Inn, Residence Inn of Chicopee, Tru by Hilton, and Health New England. Cost: $125 per golfer, $500 per team of four, and/or $20 golfer package that includes 25 raffle tickets and one mulligan. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• May 31: Sunshine Soiree, a multi-chamber networking event, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Sunshine Village, 75 Litwin Lane, Chicopee. The event will feature complimentary hors d’oeuvres, wine, and beer. Register in advance for this free event online at springfieldyps.com.

GREATER EASTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.easthamptonchamber.org

(413) 527-9414

• May 24: Chamber on the Vine, 5:30-8:30 p.m., a wine-tasting event hosted by Glendale Ridge Vineyard, 155 Glendale Road, Southampton. Taste wine, enjoy local food, and listen to the music of Trailer Trash. Cost: $20 to enjoy the music, $30 to taste the wine. Pre-registration is a must. For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call (413) 527-9414.

• June 14: Networking by Night, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Fort Hill Brewery, 30 Fort Hill Road, Easthampton. Sponsored by Oxbow Ski Show Team and Tandem Bagel. Food and door prizes will be available. Pre-registration is suggested. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call the chamber office at (413) 527-9414.

• June 27: Speaker Breakfast 2018, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted and sponsored by Williston Northampton School, 19 Payson Ave., Easthampton. Keynote speaker Kate Harrington, Human Resource manager for Smith College, will speak on “Hiring the Right Fit.” She will help attendees understand how to develop a diverse applicant pool, know what questions to ask, and recognize what questions to avoid. She will also point out what to look for in a great employee and how to watch for bias. Cost: $25 for members, $30 for non-members. Pre-registration is suggested. 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

• May 16: Chamber After Hours, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Holyoke Hummus, 285 High St., Holyoke. Meet up with your business associates for a little networking while hosts John and Dawn whip up some munchies. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Feel free to bring a door prize. Sign up online at holyokechamber.com.

• May 23: Leadership Holyoke Information Session, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Holyoke Community College, Frost Building, Room 309, 303 Homestead Ave., Holyoke. Join the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce and Holyoke Community College for a free information session for Leadership Holyoke 2018-19. The program is designed for emerging leaders within in the community to sharpen their skills, meet local leaders, and more.

GREATER NORTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.explorenorthampton.com

(413) 584-1900

• May 17: Workshop: “Microsoft Excel Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts,” 9-11 a.m., hosted by Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. This workshop will present our favorite tips, tricks, and shortcuts we have collected and developed over 20 years of teaching and using Microsoft Excel. Participants are encouraged to bring laptops and follow along with the instructor, but this is not required. Cost: $35 for members, $45 for non-members. Pre-registration required at goo.gl/forms/pX8YUuC25YdMsLjD2.

• June 6: June Arrive @ 5, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Glendale Ridge Vineyard, 155 Glendale Road, Southampton. Sponsored by Northeast Solar, MassDevelopment, and Kuhn Riddle Architects. A networking event. Cost: $10 for members.

• June 21: Workshop: “Microsoft Word: Advanced Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts,” 9-11 a.m., hosted by Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. This workshop will go beyond the basics and explore some of Word’s more advanced features. Cost: $35 for members, $45 for non-members. Space is limited, and pre-registration is required at goo.gl/forms/pX8YUuC25YdMsLjD2.

SOUTH HADLEY & GRANBY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.shgchamber.com

(413) 532-6451

• May 21: After 5 at the Ledges Golf Course, 5-6:30 p.m., hosted by the Ledges, 18 Mulligan Dr., South Hadley. An evening of networking with other community business leaders while overlooking the Connecticut River Valley and Mount Tom across the way. Sponsored by the Ledges Golf Course. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Pre-register by May 15 by contacting Sara Lawrence at (413) 532-6451 or [email protected]

• June 1: Annual Legislative Breakfast, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by the Orchards Golf Club, 18 Silverwood Terrace, South Hadley. Meet with our town and state legislators, who will talk about the hot issues upcoming for the rest of the year. More details to come. By reservation only at [email protected]

SPRINGFIELD REGIONAL CHAMBER

www.springfieldregionalchamber.com

(413) 787-1555

• May 15: C-Suite Conversations & Cocktails, 5-7 p.m., hosted by CityStage, One Columbus Center, Springfield. Exclusive members-only event. Cost: $25 for members ($30 at the door). Reservations may be made at www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, [email protected], or (413) 755-1310.

• May 31: Sunshine Soirée with the Springfield Regional Chamber, the Greater Chicopee Chamber, and YPS, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Sunshine Village, 75 Litwin Lane, Chicopee. Reservations may be made at www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, [email protected], or (413) 755-1310.

WEST OF THE RIVER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.ourwrc.com

(413) 426-3880

• May 17: Networking Lunch, noon, hosted by Springfield Country Club, 1375 Elm St., 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 intro and company overview. The only cost to attend is the cost of your lunch if you are a member. Non-member fee: $10. Attendees will order off the menu and pay separately that day. We cannot invoice you for these events. Register at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

May 22: Job Fair 2018, 3-6 p.m., hosted by Storrowton Tavern/Carriage House, 1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield. West Springfield and Agawam businesses, along with other employment opportunities, will be showcased. This event is free and open to the public. To be a participating vendor, register online at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

YOUNG PROFESSIONAL SOCIETY OF GREATER SPRINGFIELD

springfieldyps.com

• May 18: Adult Field Day, 2-5 p.m., Irish Cultural Center, West Springfield, hosted by the Irish Cultural Center, 429 Morgan Road, West Springfield. Adult Field Day is a throwback to elementary school, created with adults in mind. Friends and co-workers will relive their glory days while playing classic games, as well as a few new surprises. For more information, visit springfieldyps.com.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (WFWM) will host its annual Women Lead Change: A Celebration of the Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact (LIPPI) Class of 2018 on June 4 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke.

The event features a keynote address by Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper. The Women’s Fund will present Kasper with the ‘She Changes the World’ award, honoring her exceptional contributions for leading not only her local department, but also leading on a national level with regard to transparent data, hiring practices, and other local initiatives that have shaped community policing for the better.

More than 300 guests are expected at the annual celebration of graduates of the Women’s Fund LIPPI program, the only leadership program of its kind in the Commonwealth. The event recognizes the accomplishments of the 31 graduates of the LIPPI Class of 2018, who have participated in 11 educational sessions over nine months designed to address the shortage of women stepping into public leadership. LIPPI gives women tools and confidence to become more involved civic leaders and to impact policy on the local, state, and national levels. Proceeds for this annual event empower the Women’s Fund’s mission.

“We’re thrilled to host our distinguished awardee and celebrate 31 highly-qualified women into the growing ranks of LIPPI alumnae across the Commonwealth,” said Donna Haghighat, WFWM CEO. “We’re excited to spotlight Chief Kasper as a leader who is breaking barriers and who serves as a great role model for other women and girls. Chief Kasper credits her own participation in the LIPPI program for giving her the confidence to raise her hand and step into her leadership role.”

LIPPI graduates range in age from 18 to over 60 and represent a wide spectrum of backgrounds and ethnic groups. They originate from cities and towns across Massachusetts, from the Berkshires to the Boston area. LIPPI alumnae form a strong cohort of women who support one other when they run for office, meet with policy makers, form coalitions, and lead get-out-the-vote efforts.

Kasper was born and raised in Western Mass. She attended Mohawk Trail Regional High School, Greenfield Community College, and Westfield State University. At Westfield she earned a master’s degree in criminal justice and a second master’s degree in Public Administration.

She began her career with the Northampton Police Department in 1998 as a patrol officer. She was part of the Bike Patrol Unit, was a Field Training Officer, a detective, a sergeant, a lieutenant, the detective lieutenant, the captain of Operations, and was appointed as chief in June 2015.

Daily News

WESTBOROUGH  Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, a subsidiary of NiSource Inc., last week filed a petition with the Mass. Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to increase annual revenues by $24.1 million, representing a 3.9% increase in current operating revenues.

If approved by the DPU, the change would impact the annual gas bill for a typical residential heating customer by an average of $4.95 per month, or 3.6%.  The revised rates take effect March 1, 2019.  In the first year after the rates take effect, the $9.1 million refund due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will reduce the customer bill impact to an average of $2.80 per month, or 2%.

The request addresses increases in operating and maintenance costs incurred to comply with increasingly stringent federal and state regulatory mandates and capital costs incurred to upgrade gas infrastructure since the last time Columbia Gas changed its rates in 2016.  The DPU decision is expected by Feb. 28, 2019, with rates taking effect March 1, 2019.

The Columbia Gas request is reduced by the impact of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which became effective on Jan. 1, 2018. The request includes a proposal for a refund to customers of $9.1 million, beginning on the effective date of the revised rates, related to the benefit of the tax cut as of Jan. 1, 2018. This $9.1 million refund will partially offset the $24.1 million increase in the first year the revised rates are in effect.

The Columbia Gas request for additional revenues conforms to the standard process through which a regulated utility seeks upgrades to its operating platform for the long-term benefit of customers, the company said in a prepared statement announcing the request. The Columbia Gas modernization efforts focus on eliminating the greatest areas of risk on its distribution system, including continuing efforts to build an organization to oversee the replacement of aging infrastructure. These efforts are designed to optimize the efficient distribution of gas and enhance quality assurance.

Replacing leak-prone infrastructure is a leading priority. However, it will take a number of years to eliminate the aging pipe from the gas distribution system, the company said. In view of this, the regulatory landscape is moving to a period of more stringent regulation, operations and maintenance activities, and active enforcement to assure the integrity of the distribution system through continuous improvement activities. “Our core business is to build and maintain the infrastructure necessary to deliver natural gas in a safe, reliable and cost-efficient manner to our 321,000 customers in the 65 cities and towns we serve,” said Steve Bryant, President and Chief Operating Officer of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts. “Columbia Gas has responded diligently to directives from the Mass. Department of Public Utilities Pipeline Engineering and Safety Division and lessons learned from historical operations. We have made organizational and work practice changes to meet this important public safety challenge and our continuous improvement efforts have involved every aspect of the Company’s operations.

“These changes involve more work, and therefore, more labor and labor-related costs, including ongoing comprehensive employee training,” he went on. “A new state-of-the-art training facility built in Shrewsbury ensures that our workforce is obtaining the skills and capabilities necessary to achieve full compliance with pipeline safety regulations while executing best practices. To accommodate the resources needed to carry out the increasing volumes of construction activity, we are positioning a new Construction facility in Wrentham to house construction resources, designed with features that optimize operating safety for employees and outside service contractors.”

The filing marks the beginning of the public process of rate setting for a utility, as required by the DPU.  Evidentiary hearings on the filing will be held within the next several months.

Company Notebook Departments

HUB International Acquires Assets of Leitao Insurance

EAST LONGMEADOW — HUB International Limited, a leading global insurance brokerage, announced it has acquired the assets of Leitao Insurance Inc. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Located in Ludlow, Leitao is a multi-line insurance brokerage firm providing products in personal and commercial lines. The Leitao agency will join HUB New England with other local HUB offices in Ludlow (formerly Your Choice), South Hadley, Monson, and East Longmeadow.

CRRC MA Facility Wins Engineering Award

SPRINGFIELD — The CRRC MA rail-car manufacturing facility at the former Westinghouse site was honored as the state’s outstanding engineering achievement of the year by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts. Plaza Construction, which served as the design-build contractor for the property, accepted the award at a ceremony Wednesday. The $95 million project, spanning more than 204,000 square feet — not including the 2,240-foot test track — is the largest industrial investment in Greater Springfield in generations. The Chinese-owned company will start building new cars for the MBTA Orange Line in April, and for the Red Line later this year. In 2014, CRRC received a $566 million contract from the MBTA to build 152 Orange Line cars and 252 Red Line cars at the Page Boulevard site. Two years later, the state ordered an additional 120 Red Line cars at a cost of $277 million, with production set to begin in 2022.

Hofbrauhaus Closing Doors After 83 Years in Business

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Hofbrauhaus owners Joe and Liz Stevens will close its doors for good on April 1, the couple announced on Facebook on Wednesday. “It is official — as of Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018 (and no, this isn’t an April Fool’s joke), the Hofbrauhaus will be closing its doors for good,” they wrote. “We thank everyone for their patronage and support over the years, but we are ready to move on and make some big, wonderful, exciting, and maybe a little scary changes in our lives.’” Hofbrauhaus, the German restaurant that became one of the region’s most iconic eateries, first opened its doors in 1935.

United Bank Joins Connecticut Trolley Museum as Corporate Sponsor

EAST WINDSOR, Conn. — The Connecticut Trolley Museum announced that United Bank has joined the museum as a corporate sponsor. The museum started its corporate sponsor program in 2016, and since then a number of area businesses have joined the museum to support its mission “to provide a historically accurate educational experience of the trolley era through the interpretation, preservation, restoration, and operation of an electric railway.” As its newest corporate sponsor, United Bank joins Sophia’s Restaurant, USA Hauling, Windsor Federal Savings, Collins Pipe and Supply, Simsbury Bank, Connecticut Lighting Centers, Get Listed Realty, and Allstate in support of the museum. The Connecticut Trolley Museum is located off of Route 140 in East Windsor, off exit 45 of Interstate 91. Businesses with an interest in becoming corporate sponsors may contact the museum at (860) 627-6540 or [email protected]

Ohana School of Performing Arts Supports Square One

SPRINGFIELD — The Square One family continues to expand, thanks to its latest partnership with Ohana School of Performing Arts. Ohana owner Ashley Kohl and her team are volunteering monthly to visit preschoolers at the Square One Tommie Johnson Child & Family Center in Springfield. All 150 children will receive lessons in creative movement and dance. “Studies have long pointed to the physical benefits of dance when it comes to keeping children fit and working to combat childhood obesity,” said Kristine Allard, chief development and communications officer for Square One. “More recent research also points to the benefits of dance from the standpoint of emotional, social, and cognitive development, which is a critical component of our work at Square One.” The volunteer support comes in conjunction with Ohana’s recent gift of $1,000 to support Square One’s work with children and families.

Thornes Marketplace to Renovate Front Entrance

NORTHAMPTON — Thornes Marketplace will begin a major renovation of its front entrance on Main Street the first week in April to make practical improvements as well as aesthetic ones that are historically accurate. Richard Madowitz, Thornes owner and property manager, stressed that work on the entryway — one of the last phases of a multi-year capital-improvement project — will be conducted from 9:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. The front entrance will remain open daily during regular business hours. After the project gets underway, Madowitz noted, visitors with questions or concerns can send feedback to [email protected] Photographs will be available on Thornes’ Facebook page, and news and updates will appear at thornesmarketplace.com. Over the past 10 years, Thornes Marketplace has undertaken a series of major renovations to improve and enhance the eclectic shopping center. Thornes has partnered with Keiter Builders Inc. and Emily Estes of Estes Architecture and Design for the renovations to the entranceway. McGee said the practical goal of the project is to improve accessibility and make the entrance more user-friendly by replacing the 30-year-old wooden doors with wider doors equipped with modern power operators compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Aesthetic improvements will include a raised, coffered ceiling; new, custom-stained oak doors; dramatic chandelier lighting; and new floor tiling. The Florence Bank ATM enclosure will also be renovated to fit the period.

Indian Motorcycle to Open Apparel Store at MGM

SPRINGFIELD — Indian Motorcycle, the Springfield-based pioneer of the American motorcycle industry, will debut the brand’s first-ever apparel store as an anchor tenant of MGM Springfield’s retail collection. The flagship location will open its doors at the MGM property later this year. The Indian Motorcycle store will offer items from the brand’s casual apparel line, the Indian Motorcycle 1901 Fashion Collection. This road-ready collection features graphic tees, sweatshirts, hoodies, and jackets inspired by Indian Motorcycle’s rich heritage. Indian Motorcycle jewelry and accessories also will be available for purchase. Mirroring the aesthetic of the store’s product lines, the space will feature an industrial-yet-modern vibe with exposed, vaulted ceilings and concrete and wood elements. Paying homage to its long-standing roots in the heart of Springfield, the location will open onto to the resort’s plaza.

AIC Joins Hispanic Assoc. of Colleges and Universities

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) joined the Hispanic Assoc. of Colleges and Universities (HACU) as an associate member. HACU was established in 1986 with a founding membership of eighteen institutions. It now represents more than 470 colleges and universities committed to Hispanic higher-education success in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Latin America, and Spain. While member institutions in the U.S. represent only 13% of all higher-education institutions nationwide, together these colleges and universities are home to two-thirds of all Hispanic college students. HACU’s commitment to Hispanic achievement in education ranges from kindergarten through graduate school and into the work force of tomorrow. Key among the organization’s goals is to improve access to and quality of post-secondary educational opportunities for Hispanic students.

Viridi International Resorts Acquires El Silencio Lodge and Spa in Costa Rica

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — Viridi International Resorts SRL, a new upstart in the ultra-luxury boutique hotel and spa space, announced the acquisition of El Silencio Lodge and Spa from Grupo Isilita, San Jose, Costa Rica. El Silencio Lodge is a luxury eco-tourist resort located in the high-altitude cloud forest just one hour from San Jose in Bajos del Toro. El Silencio was recently voted the No. 2 Top Resort in Central America by Condé Nast Reader’s Choice Awards. El Silencio Lodge offers one of the best lodging and dining experiences in Costa Rica. The property’s 16 intimate casitas and six two-bedroom villas offers visitors a one-of-a-kind refuge from a busy world. The resort’s detached suites offer a private viewing deck of the surrounding cloud forest with traditional rocking chairs, and a private heated outdoor Jacuzzi. Viridi plans to add additional rooms and suites in the months and years ahead. The hotel’s Las Ventanas Restaurant offers traditional Costa Rican dishes in addition to an eclectic assortment of entrees and appetizers with organic farm-to-table produce and fresh fish from two on-site fish farms. Guests can actively participate in the culinary experience by fishing for rainbow trout (Costa Rican salmon), picking vegetables, collecting free-range chicken eggs, or venturing out to a community market before enjoying a fun-filled interactive cooking session with the resort’s head chef. A second on-site restaurant, Hierbabuena, is open weekends during high season and offers a more casual menu for family gatherings. Onsite activities at El Silencio include horseback riding, ziplining, waterfall repelling, fishing, yoga, and more than two miles of hiking trails, all located on 500 acres of a pristine Costa Rican cloud forest with three breathtaking waterfalls, including one nearly 200 feet tall, all flanked by two national parks to ensure a quiet and serene experience. The resort’s open space Esencia Spa offers a full array of rejuvenating treatments using indigenous Costa Rican rainforest oils and minerals. Viridi International Resorts SRL was founded by Boston-area media entrepreneur John Gormally with the goal of building a small to medium-sized luxury boutique hotel/spa group with properties throughout Central and South America, the Caribbean, and other highly sought-after destination spots across the globe. Akoya Hospitality LLC, New York, N.Y. acted as advisor to buyer. Resort Capital Partners of Charlotte, N.C. acted as advisor to the seller. The sale price was not disclosed.

Chamber Corners Departments

1BERKSHIRE

www.1berkshire.com

(413) 499-1600

• 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

• 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

• 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.

• May 10: Networking by Night, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Amy’s Place, 80 Cottage St., Easthampton. Sponsored by bankESB. There will be food and door prizes. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. 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

• 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.

• May 4: Annual Spring Swizzle, 6:30-10:30 p.m., hosted by Eastside Grill, 19 Strong Ave., Northampton. A networking event. Cost: $75; $100 for two. Purchase tickets at www.chamberspringswizzle.com.

• May 9: May Arrive @ 5, 5-7 p.m., host to be announced. Sponsored by Northeast Solar and the Lusteg Wealth Management Group – Merrill Lynch. A networking event. Cost: $10 for members.

• May 17: Workshop: “Microsoft Excel Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts,” 9-11 a.m., hosted by Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. This workshop will present our favorite tips, tricks, and shortcuts we have collected and developed over 20 years of teaching and using Microsoft Excel. Topics will include shortcuts for selecting ranges, using autofill to create a series of dates or numbers, setting the print area, using page-break preview, adding headers and footers, and using page-layout view. You’ll learn how to group spreadsheets in the same workbook in order to type or format more than one sheet at the same time, as well as how to create 3D formulas that calculate across several spreadsheets in the same workbook. Participants are encouraged to bring laptops and follow along with the instructor, but this is not required. Cost: $35 for members, $45 for non-members. Pre-registration required at goo.gl/forms/pX8YUuC25YdMsLjD2.

• June 6: June Arrive @ 5, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Glendale Ridge Vineyard, 155 Glendale Road, Southampton. Sponsored by Northeast Solar, MassDevelopment, and Kuhn Riddle Architects. A networking event. Cost: $10 for members.

• June 21: Workshop: “Microsoft Word: Advanced Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts,” 9-11 a.m., hosted by Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. This workshop will go beyond the basics and explore some of Word’s more advanced features. You’ll learn how to use Word styles to make global changes to a document quickly and easily. The class will also cover working with templates to automate document creation. You’ll learn to use several of Word’s features for working with longer documents — adding a table of contents, inserting section breaks, inserting headers and footers, and inserting and modifying page numbers. Cost: $35 for members, $45 for non-members. Space is limited, and pre-registration is required at goo.gl/forms/pX8YUuC25YdMsLjD2.

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 9: 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

• 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

• April 4: [email protected], 7:15-9 a.m, hosted by Delaney House, One Country Club Road, Holyoke. Featuring the Mayor’s Forum with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt, and newly elected Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle, who will be interviewed by Western Mass News anchor Dave Madsen. Cost: $25 for members in advance ($30 at the door), $35 general admission ($40 at the door). To make a reservation, visit www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, e-mail [email protected], or call (413) 755-1310.

• April 5: Leadership Institute Graduation, 6 p.m., hosted by Springfield Sheraton, One Monarch Place, Springfield. Cost: $40 for members. To make a reservation, visit www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, e-mail [email protected], or call (413) 755-1310.

• April 25: Beacon Hill Summit, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., day-long trip to the State House to meet legislators. Cost: $180 for members, $225 general admission, which includes transportation, lunch, and reception. To make a reservation, 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.

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

SPRINGFIELD — Indian Motorcycle, the Springfield-based pioneer of the American motorcycle industry, will debut the brand’s first-ever apparel store as an anchor tenant of MGM Springfield’s retail collection. The flagship location will open its doors at the MGM property later this year.

The Indian Motorcycle store will offer items from the brand’s casual apparel line, the Indian Motorcycle 1901 Fashion Collection. This road-ready collection features graphic tees, sweatshirts, hoodies, and jackets inspired by Indian Motorcycle’s rich heritage. Indian Motorcycle jewelry and accessories also will be available for purchase.

Mirroring the aesthetic of the store’s product lines, the space will feature an industrial-yet-modern vibe with exposed, vaulted ceilings and concrete and wood elements. Paying homage to its long-standing roots in the heart of Springfield, the location will open onto to the resort’s plaza.

“Our partnership with Indian Motorcycle reinforces the iconic brand’s deep connection to Springfield and celebrates the city’s industrial history,” said Michael Mathis, president of MGM Springfield. “This store will be an integral part of the fun, one-of-a-kind experiences we’re creating at MGM Springfield.”

Steve Menneto, president of Indian Motorcycle, added that “Indian’s legacy as America’s first motorcycle company is something that’s extremely important to us, and it’s exciting to return the brand to its roots in Springfield with the opening of our first apparel store. We are proud to be a part of this dynamic new MGM Resorts property and look forward to the grand-opening festivities.”

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.

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

• March 15: Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce and Young Professionals of Amherst After 5 Networking, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Country Nissan, 40 Russell St., Hadley.

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

• March 8: Business After Hours, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Mill 180 Park, 180 Pleasant St., Easthampton. Multi-chamber event sponsored exclusively by CHH Engraving Inc. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Sign up at chicopeechamber.org/events.
 n 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 at chicopeechamber.org/events.

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

• March 8: Multi-Chamber Networking Event, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Mill 180 Park, 180 Pleasant St., Easthampton. Sponsored by Interland Real Estate, LLC. In addition to the Easthampton Chamber, the chambers of Northampton, Springfield, Holyoke, Westfield, Chicopee, and West of the River are all involved. For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call the chamber office at (413) 527-9414.
• March 16: St. Patrick’s Day Luncheon, noon, hosted by Northampton Country Club, 135 Main St., Leeds. The main speaker will be Easthampton City Councilor Dan Carey. For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call the chamber office at (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.

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

• March 7: The Chamber Coffee Buzz Morning Networking, 7:30-9 a.m., sponsored and hosted by Loomis House, 298 Jarvis Ave., Holyoke. Jump-start your day with the opportunity to meet business and community leaders while enjoying coffee and a light breakfast. Coffee sponsored by Manage Your Health and Wealth. Free to the business community. Sign up online at holyokechamber.com or call (413) 534-3376.

• March 7: “Women in Leadership: Leadership in Your Future,” 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., hosted by HCC Culinary Arts Institute, 164 Race St., Holyoke. Join us from March through June to learn from area CEOs while networking with peers from the region. An elegant lunch prepared by 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. Future leadership luncheons will take place on April 4, May 2, and June 5. Cost: $125 for all four sessions.

• March 8: Networking by Night Multi Chamber Event, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Mill 180 Park, 180 Pleasant St., Easthampton. An evening of networking with several regional chambers, plus food and a cash bar. Chamber partners include Holyoke, Easthampton, Springfield, Westfield, West of the River, Chicopee, and Northampton. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Pre-registration required.

• March 14: St. Patrick’s Day Business Breakfast 2018, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by the Log Cabin, 500 Easthampton Road, Holyoke. Sponsored by PeoplesBank; Holyoke Mall at Ingleside; Resnic, Beauregard, Waite and Driscoll; and the Republican. Coffee bar sponsored by Marcotte Ford and Holyoke Medical Center. Connect with friends over a hearty Irish breakfast. The 2018 St. Patrick’s Parade Committee award winners, the Grand Colleen and her court, local business milestones, and new chamber members will be recognized. Register by March 8 for a discounted price of $35; cost is $40 after that. Marketing tables are available. Door prizes are welcome. The deadline to register is March 12. Visit holyokechamber.com to sign up, or call (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.

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

• March 8: March Arrive @ 5, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Mill 180, 180 Pleasant St., Easthampton. Sponsored by Applied Mortgage. The Northampton, Easthampton, Holyoke, Springfield, Westfield, West of the River, and Chicopee chambers will participate in this networking event. Cost: $10 for members.

• March 15: Introduction to Pivot Tables, 9-11 a.m., hosted by Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. Also called a Cross-Tab, a Pivot Table lets users easily apply various functions to data and separate the data by various criteria in rows and columns. Designed for users of Excel who have used Excel for six months or more and who need to analyze data. Participants are encouraged to bring laptops and follow along with the instructor, but this is not required. 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: 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.

• June 21: Microsoft Word: Advanced Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts, 9-11 a.m., hosted by Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. This workshop will go beyond the basics and explore some of Word’s more advanced features. Pre-registration is required, and space is limited. Cost: $25 for members, $35 for non-members. To register, visit goo.gl/forms/pX8YUuC25YdMsLjD2.

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

• March 5: March Mayor’s Coffee Hour, 8-9 a.m., hosted by Mercy Continuing Care Network at Westfield Adult Day Health, 24 Clifton St., Westfield. Cost: free. Call the chamber office at (413) 568-1618 to register for this event so we may give our host a head count.

• March 14: March After 5 Connection, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Spotlight Graphics, 9B Whalley Way, Southwick. Refreshments will be served, and a 50/50 raffle will benefit the chamber scholarship fund. Bring your business cards and make connections. Cost: $10 for the general public (cash or credit paid at the door). Register online at www.westfieldbiz.org. For more information, call Pam Bussell at (413) 568-1618.

• March 16: St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast, 7-9 a.m., hosted by Westfield State University, 577 Western Ave., Westfield. Event sponsor: Westfield State University; bronze sponsor: Republic Services; in-kind flower sponsor: Flowers by Webster. Keynote speaker: Bo Sullivan, executive director of the Irish Cultural Center of Western New England. A 50/50 raffle will support the chamber scholarship fund. Cost: $25 for chamber members, $30 for the general public. Register online at www.westfieldbiz.org. For tickets, sponsorship opportunities, or additional information, contact Pam Bussell at (413) 568-1618 or [email protected]

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

• March 7: [email protected], 7:15-9 a.m., hosted by Chez Josef, 176 Shoemaker Lane, Agawam. Cost: $25 for members ($30 at the door), $35 general admission ($40 at the door).

• March 8: After Hours with Springfield Regional, Greater Easthampton, Westfield and West of the River Chambers, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Mill 180, 180 Pleasant St., Easthampton. Cost: $10 for members, $15 general admission.

• March 9: Outlook 2018, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., hosted by the MassMutual Center, Springfield. Featuring keynote speaker Gov. Charlie Baker and Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Cost: $60 for members in advance; $80 general admission in advance.

• March 13: Lunch ‘n’ Learn, details to be announced.

• 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.

• 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).

Reservations for all chamber events may be made by visiting www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, e-mailing [email protected], or calling (413) 755-1310.

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

• March 6: Business Breakfast with MGM, 7-9 a.m., hosted by Storrowton Tavern, West Springfield. Join fellow members and non-members for a business breakfast with MGM. We will provide an update as well as one-on-one sessions with MGM representatives for the bidding process. Sponsorships are available for this event. Register at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

• March 15: Networking Lunch, noon to 1:30 p.m., hosted by Crestview Country Club, Agawam. You 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 introduction and company overview. 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 at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

• 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 at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

YOUNG PROFESSIONAL SOCIETY OF GREATER SPRINGFIELD
springfieldyps.com

• March 10: Eighth annual YP Cup Dodgeball Tournament, 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., hosted by Springfield College, Dana Gymnasium, 263 Alden St., Springfield. Cost: $35 for individuals, $275 to $1,000 for teams and sponsorships. More information and registration available at springfieldyps.com.

Daily News

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.”

Daily News

AMHERST — The UMass Dining mobile app has been recognized in the Web Marketing Association’s sixth annual international MobileWebAwards Competition as both the Best University Mobile Application and the Best of Show Mobile Application of 2017.

UMass Dining’s mobile app’s key features include up-to-date menus, operating hours, and contact information for all dining common locations, the ability to view real-time traffic updates for each DC, having access to UMass Dining’s on-campus events information, and the ability to personalize one’s menu for dietary preferences and allergens. 

Each website and mobile application in this year’s MobileWebAwards Competition were assessed based on several criteria: creativity, impact, design, content, interactivity, ease of use and the use of the medium. Each entry was evaluated in comparison to the websites and mobile apps within the same format in its industry and then judged for an overall standard of excellence.

“We are thrilled to receive such positive recognition about our app,” says Ken Toong, executive director of auxiliary enterprises at UMass Amherst. “Our goal is to make the dining experience on the UMass campus truly exceptional. Our app contributes greatly to this mission, and we would like to continue to leverage technology to enhance our customer experience. All the credit goes to our terrific team who made this app a reality.”

Health Care Sections

Left to Their Own Devices

While residential care services have broadened in recent years for seniors unable to live independently, technology has emerged as well to help older people stay in their homes longer, if they so choose — while giving some peace of mind to their families. Here are a few currently available devices, and what the health-tech media is saying about them.

GPS Trackers

Individuals with dementia face specific challenges at home — particularly the possibility they might wander from that home. To counter that challenge, a number of trackers, many that operate with global positioning system (GPS) technology, have emerged on the market.

A solution to wandering from the Alzheimer’s Assoc., the Comfort Zone Check-In application ($10 per month) allows caregivers to use a small tracking device to monitor their loved one with dementia.

“Comfort Zone Check-In combines the latest technology with flexibility, allowing families to change devices and plans as a person’s disease progresses and monitoring needs change,” according to the Alzheimer’s Assoc. “Using GPS and cellular technologies with online mapping, the entire family can proactively determine the location of the person with Alzheimer’s. Families log into a secure, password-protected website similar to logging into most e-mail systems and proactively establish safety zones.”

“Comfort Zone Check In has the potential to give peace of mind, both to those who care for Alzheimer’s patients, as well as patients themselves, who can get frustrated or distressed when people will not let them do anything independently,” noted Health and Life in a review. “It is not an over-exaggeration to say that Comfort Zone Check In could have a dramatic impact on Alzheimer’s care, especially as research continues to unlock the complexities of the condition and we understand more and more about it.

A new cellular tracking device, iTraq3 ($149) uses cellular towers to determine location, allowing it to be used anywhere there is service. The device itself is as small as a credit card, and its location is reported through a mobile application which allows the user to view a map of locations and timestamps. Itraq also features a ‘guard mode’ where users can specify a radius on a map, then receive alerts if and when the itraq goes beyond the pre-set radius.

“iTraq is a remarkable cellular tracking device for iPhone or iPad,” iGeeksBlog notes. “Being developed as the most effective gadget to track your things, it is the world’s first global location device. As iTraq uses cellular towers to determine location, it can be located anywhere else in the world where cellular service exists.”

Meanwhile, Pocketfinder ($159), a small, waterproof GPS devices, allow users to not only view a GPS location, but also an address, distance from the address, and the speed the device is moving. The app provides updates at the touch of a button through e-mail and text notifications. It also provides an unlimited number of ‘geofences’ that send an alert when the GPS leaves a specified area.

“While there are several similar GPS technologies in the market,” Digifloor notes, “PocketFinder removes the complexities of modern wireless technologies and offers a simple and easy solution that helps people coordinate and communicate with people and things.”

In-home Sensors

Rather than track people outside the home, another class of devices helps people know what their loved ones are up to in their homes. Activity-based sensors can reassure that the resident is up and about, carrying out daily tasks — or not.

For example, Alarm.com’s Wellness independent living solution ($99) integrates a suite of sensors and devices, and applies machine-learning algorithms to the data they generate to detect changes that may suggest risks. Wellness can report about changes in activity levels, sleeping and eating patterns, bathroom-visit frequency, and medication adherence, as well as emergency situations like wandering out of the home or falls.

“Far from being a contemporary Big Brother, the system provides real-time info on your loved one’s whereabouts and well-being, all without the use of intrusive cameras,” Reviewed reports. “The system uses a combination of bed-presence monitors, motion sensors, and panic buttons to track movement and alert users and caregivers of any unexpected changes in routine.”

One of the newest devices is the Inirv React ($239), which connects the stove to a sensor in the home and a smartphone app. The sensor will automatically turn the stove off if it no longer detects motion around the appliance after a long period of time. The stove can also be turned off remotely using a smartphone.

“You can control individual burners through your phone, of course, but the real star of the show is a sensor that sits on your ceiling,” according to Engadget. “If it detects gas, smoke, or prolonged inactivity, it automatically shuts off active burners. You shouldn’t have to worry about sparking a house fire just because you forgot to switch the stove off before you left for the movies.”

Meanwhile, the iGuardStove Intelligent ($495) is a pricier way to shut off the stove if a loved one is away from the cooktop for too long. It automatically shuts off the stove if cooking is left unattended, thanks to a two-part system of a power box and motion detector.

“The built-in wi-fi can help keep you posted online about how often the system has to shut down off your stove and send you alerts if it’s happening a little too often,” CNET notes. “The iGuardStove Intelligent is a good product if you are concerned about yourself or a loved one leaving a stove unattended.”

LifeAssist Technologies has developed the Reminder Rosie ($99), a clock that allows the recording of personalized messages and reminders that will be broadcast at scheduled times for whomever is in the home — perhaps a reminder to take medication or that the grandchildren will be coming over for dinner.

“Using revolutionary speech recognition technologies, Reminder Rosie announces multiple, loud, personalized reminder alarms at specific times daily, weekly, on a specific date, annually, in any language,” Caregiver Products reports. “Rosie can also tell the time, date, or today’s reminders to help organize each day. This talking alarm clock provides a simple solution to help users remember medications, appointments, household tasks, social activities, and other helpful information without touching any buttons. Reminder Rosie is a low-tech, stress-free memory aid that seniors or those with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or memory loss can actually use.”

Emergency pendants with fall detection serve a specific purpose, and have been around for longer than most other technologies in this article. Worn around the wrist or neck, they can be pressed in case of an emergency, such as after a fall, and a call is immediately made to 911 and/or pre-programmed numbers of family members.

Along with its lightweight and waterproof design, Philips Lifeline products are some of the more popular solutions on the market: HomeSafe, with autoalert fall detection (from $44.95 per month), works at home, while its GoSafe pendant, with autoalert and two-way voice (from $54.95 per month), uses up to six locating technologies, including GPS, to find someone in an emergency.

Medication Reminders

Then there are medication reminders, a field that has attracted plenty of innovation in recent years, with devices designed to remind, dispense, and manage medication.

Top5Reviews chooses as its favorite model the medSmart e-Pill automatic dispenser ($490), which comes with two keys, six daily alarms, a patient-compliance dashboard, and alarms that alert with sound and blinking lights.

“One buyer that we spoke to applauds its particularly deep medication compartments, compared to other models on the market,” the site notes. “One word of caution: it is a good buy only if the person taking the medicine is able to remember what the alarm signifies, is able to actually get the medicine out of the dispenser, and who are likely to take the pills right after removing them from the e-Pill.

For a budget option, Wirecutter, in its reviews of e-pill products, noted that the clock of the 31-day MedCenter System monthly pill organizer ($96) “was the easiest and most intuitive to program of any device we tested. If you can set a bedside alarm clock, you can set up this reminder device.

“However,” it went on, “you need to load the MedCenter’s pill trays, which each have their own plastic cover — individually, a task that can be a little arduous if you’re planning out a whole month. And you can’t individually lock the plastic pill caddies, which makes this model fine for a self-care situation or one where the patient is fully aware and not easily confused.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

WESTFIELD — Tighe & Bond published the results of its most recent Massachusetts Water and Sewer Rate Survey. Since 1997, Tighe & Bond has gathered and published Massachusetts water and sewer user rate data that municipal government and private water suppliers can use as a benchmarking tool for comparing their rates against other suppliers in the state.



The survey, conducted across the state during 2017, includes typical annual homeowner water and sewer costs for most systems throughout Massachusetts. It also provides information regarding rate structures and billing cycles. This can be particularly useful information when suppliers are considering adjustments to their current rates or rate structures.



Tighe & Bond is now teaming with the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina School of Government to present the results of the firm’s rate study using a free, online rates dashboard developed, hosted and maintained by the center. This gives users more flexibility in examining the survey data. Users can adjust the assumed annual usage the comparison is based on, review conservation and affordability metrics, as well as compare annual bills. They can also compare rates by utility size, river basin, geographic area, and median household income.



The 2017 water survey indicates that annual water costs in in Massachusetts range from a low of $123 to a high of $2,025. The 2017 average is $595, and the median is $568. Sixty-five percent of survey respondents have increased their rates since the 2014 survey.



The 2017 sewer survey indicates that annual sewer costs in in Massachusetts range from a low of $229 to a high of $2,316. The 2017 average is $862, and the median is $838. Three-quarters of survey respondents have increased their rates since the 2014 survey.



Anyone can access the online rates dashboard, or request a copy of these survey results, by visiting www.tighebond.com/category/rate-surveys.



One of the most commonly reported challenges facing water systems across Massachusetts and throughout New England is aging infrastructure. A rate structure designed to provide sustainable revenue for operations and capital programs is critical to ensure reliable, safe drinking water and effective sewer and fire protection. Tighe & Bond’s “Water Insights” blog located at www.tighebond.com/category/water-insights features numerous articles supporting municipal and water-company concerns.


Class of 2018 Difference Makers

Evan Plotkin Works to Fill in the Canvas Known as Springfield

006_plotkinevan-diff2017The small bronze plaque is starting to show its age.

Fastened to a rectangular stone near the former Court Square Hotel and the old Hampden County Courthouse, it proudly celebrates work done to clean up a walkway that connects Court Square with State Street. It reads:

COURT HOUSE WALK, one of the city’s most charming and historic landmarks, was restored by the Junior League of Springfield Massachusetts Incorporated in cooperation with the City of Springfield, 1979.

Evan Plotkin, president of NAI Plotkin, can’t really see this plaque from the south-facing window in his office on the 14th floor of 1350 Main St. (although he can see quite a bit, as will be noted later). But he references it when he can because, in many ways, it, like similar milestones around the city, presents a perfect segue into a discussion about what drives his efforts to revitalize Springfield, especially through the arts and restoration and celebration of existing treasures ranging from parks and fountains to the Connecticut River.

“You can almost imagine the ceremony there, with media standing by and the public officials, and everyone making a proclamation and galvanizing it on a plaque on the ground,” he told BusinessWest as he looked out his window and gestured toward the walkway. “There are a lot of plaques like that around the city, and they all say, in essence, ‘this is a commitment that we made, and we put in bronze, presumably so it would last longer than we are going to last so that future generations will know that at one time we had this vision of doing something.’

“When I first saw that plaque, and saw there were dead rats along that sidewalk and all the lights were out, I said, ‘this is not the vision that they had,’” Plotkin went on. “They had a vision of connecting this beautiful park to another very important commercial district with something special.”

There are, as he noted, a great many stories like that walkway scattered across downtown Springfield and beyond. Stearns Square is one of them. Pynchon Park, the elaborate, much-heralded space built in the late ’70s to connect the Quadrangle with the central business district and abandoned soon after it opened, is another. There’s also Riverfront Park, the Apremont Triangle area, and many more.

There are plaques at some of those sites, but there were gatherings of people and celebrations at all of them, said Plotkin, who has committed his adult life to restoring … well, something approximating what it was that people were celebrating when they gathered, made speeches, and maybe cut a ribbon.

In the case of that walkway, for example, Plotkin made sure that it was part of City Mosaic, what amounts to a giant mural on the Court Square property that he helped bring to fruition, one that features the likenesses of dozens of celebrities, from the Beatles to Louis Armstrong. Judy Garland, Muhammad Ali, Elvis Presley, and John Lennon are among those who can be seen on the walkway portion of the mural.

plotkinplaguecourthousewalk

There are many other examples of Plotkin’s work to re-energize and enliven Springfield — from his hard work to revitalize the Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival to his efforts to lead the Art & Soles public art project that placed colorful sneakers around downtown, to his success in turning 1350 Main into a kind of art gallery.

And there are many things, beyond those aforementioned plaques, inspiring Plotkin as he goes about this wide-ranging work. Part of it is what he fondly remembers from his youth, a half-century ago, when he, like countless others who grew up near the City of Homes, would get on a bus on a Saturday morning, travel to downtown Springfield, and spend literally all day there — at Johnson’s Bookstore, Herman’s World of Sporting Goods, Forbes & Wallace, the movie theaters, Friendly’s, and countless other destinations.

Another part of it is what he’s seen during his many trips to Europe, where squares and plazas in Rome, Madrid, Venice, Amsterdam, and other cultural centers are filled, not just with tourists, but locals.

Another part of it is recognition not of what Springfield was — 50 years ago or 150 years ago, for that matter — but what it could be. Especially at a time when we are told urban living is making a comeback, that Millennials want to live in places where they may not have to drive, that downtowns are hot again.

But what probably drives him most is the fact that not all downtowns are hot, and not all cities are attracting Millennials and retiring Baby Boomers alike.

No, only those cities that can create an attractive mix of things to do, places to live, cultural amenities, and a sense of safety and comfort are making their way into that category.

Plotkin has made what amounts to a second career out of efforts to make Springfield one of those cities. And for his tireless — and we mean tireless — efforts, he is certainly worthy of the designation Difference Maker.

Art of the Matter

Getting back to what Plotkin can see out his windows … there’s plenty, as we noted. There’s the river, the South End and the casino rising there, and, yes, Court Square, in which there is a slightly larger plaque he can actually see and took the opportunity to point out.

It commemorates the Parsons Tavern, which stood on that site. It was there that George Washington was “entertained” — it doesn’t say anything about him sleeping there — on June 30, 1775 while traveling on horseback from Philadelphia to Cambridge to take command of the American forces. And he stopped there again 14 years later, this time as president of the young country, while traveling by coach through the New England states.

Evan Plotkin with some examples of his ‘food art.’

Evan Plotkin with some examples of his ‘food art.’

“There are neat plaques and monuments like that all over the city, and most people don’t know they’re there,” said Plotkin, who pointed out another — the lion’s-head fountain on the east side of the square that was restored several years ago.

But Plotkin certainly doesn’t restrict his interests and his activity to what he can see out the window. Indeed, he walks the city pretty much on a daily basis, usually with his dog, George, at his side. While he’s walking, he’s always taking mental notes, he said, and thinking about what was, in some cases, and about what can be in all cases.

A real-estate broker and manager by trade, Plotkin is also an artist. The area once occupied by Santander Bank’s lobby at 1350 Main St., which Plotkin co-owns, has many of his works on display. They include some sculptures and a large collection of photos of images (mostly faces) he created on his plate by arranging various foods just so. Really.

“I call it food art, or face food — it’s a little goofy,” he told BusinessWest. “It’s not really a genre, it’s just something I do.”

So, in many respects, Plotkin the artist sees Springfield as his canvas, one that he is filling in through his various endeavors. Looked at another way, though — and this is probably the more accurate description — Springfield itself is a work of art in need of restoration work, and Plotkin, the artist but also the community activist, Springfield champion, and sometimes (often?) pain in the neck to those in City Hall, is heavily involved in that restoration work.

Overall, while his artistic portfolio is mostly about positioning meats and vegetables, his work with and on behalf of the city amounts to what he calls “activating space,” with ‘activating’ taking many forms.

They include everything from revitalizing spaces or facilities — such as the fountain at Stearns Square, which has been dismantled for repairs — to bringing vibrancy to a given location, such as efforts he’s led to bring the Springfield Jazz & Roots festival to Court Square (more on that later).

Plotkin’s not sure when he started doing all this, but as he looks back, he believes he’s pretty much always been involved in such efforts.

Speaking of looking back, Plotkin did a lot of it as he talked with BusinessWest, recalling, for example, those bus trips downtown, visits to the family business’s offices on Dwight Street, and walks with his father and grandfather through a much different downtown Springfield.

“All the shop owners, whether they were a furrier or a hatter or a print shop … all these different store owners would be out talking with people, and my grandfather knew every one of them,” he remembered. “It seemed like a really great community of small businesses, family businesses, and I think this is something that’s been lost in the downtown.”

The rise of the automobile and the construction of roads like I-91, I-291, and I-391 played a big part in this transformation, he went on, adding that, as people and businesses left for the suburbs and malls, downtown lost its vibrancy as well as its appeal.

But in some cities, he said, a reversal of that transformation is taking place, with people moving back downtown and cities putting more emphasis on infrastructure for pedestrians and bicycles and dedicating less space to surface parking lots, for example.

Can the same happen in Springfield? Plotkin offered what amounts to a ‘yes, but…’ And by that, he meant that there is still considerable work to do.

Past Is Prologue

Plotkin knows better than anyone that there is no turning back the clock to 1969, to those bus trips to downtown and on to Johnson’s bookstore, stops at the typewriter repair shop or record store while walking around.

But there can be a return to the type of vibrancy that existed then, he went on, adding that Springfield can be one of those cities to capitalize on the apparent surge in urban living and the return of the downtown.

When helping to bringing City Mosaic to reality, Evan Plotkin made sure Court House Walk was included in the project.

When helping to bringing City Mosaic to reality, Evan Plotkin made sure Court House Walk was included in the project.

Much will have to go right, he admits, and the city will have to somehow answer that perplexing urban version of the chicken-or-egg question, which goes something like: ‘which comes first — the people or the restaurants, coffee shops, retail, and jobs?’ The theory goes that you can’t have one without the other.

Plotkin believes the city needs to be focused on both sides of the equation at the same time, and especially the part about getting people here. All those other things will follow, he said.

But to get people here, the city must be more livable, he said, meaning it must be safe and vibrant, have places for people to live, offer culture, and provide an infrastructure that, as noted, is far more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly.

And he’s focused on all of the above through his work to activate spaces.

With that, he recalled his most recent trip to Europe and, more specifically, to Amsterdam and a plaza called Dam Square.

“It’s mobbed with people, it’s the epicenter of the city historically, it’s beautiful visually, and it’s the heart of the city; that’s where people to go to mingle and mix and shop and entertain themselves,” he said. “To draw a comparison to Court Square, I’ve looked on that as being one of those great public spaces, and the frustrating thing for me throughout my time in Springfield is that I see these public spaces and their potential — which is underutilized.

“And it frustrates me to no end,” he went on. “We have such incredibly important public spaces that have been dormant for some time. When you go to a place like Dam Square or Plaza Mayor in Madrid or other places like that, and see the activity that’s happening in those places, which isn’t contrived, it happens every day, you imagine the possibilities, but you also get frustrated.”

Perhaps the most glaring example of facilities being underutilized is Pynchon Park, he noted, adding that it had a very short life as a park before it was essentially locked down and abandoned amid safety concerns and other considerations.

“There was no plan for Pynchon Park,” said Plotkin with noticeable exacerbation in his voice. “I know from being in real estate that if you build something, that’s not the end of the game; you have to maintain that property. You have to think about security, infrastructure, maintenance, and keeping it clean so it is serviceable for the purpose for which it was intended.”

But, in a twist, Pynchon Park, which has long been a poster child for neglect and underutilization of resources, may soon be one of the more stunning examples of what Plotkin called a “sea change” taking place in Springfield.

Indeed, the park is slated for a $3.5 million facelift (funded by the MassWorks Infrastructure Program) that will include, ironically, a decidedly European form of conveyance, a funicular, to transport people from Dwight Street to Chestnut Street and the Quadrangle.

Other examples include Stearns Square and its fountain, Duryea Way, and Riverfront Park, also scheduled for a major renovation.

Accomplishments of Note

The jazz festival is part of this sea change, he went on, adding that his work to bring that event downtown and continue the tradition after it was discontinued for a few years is exemplary of his broader efforts to make downtown a gathering place and not just a Monday-through-Friday, 9-to-5 place.

Plotkin said his involvement with the festival began in 2005 when he served as a volunteer for what was known then as the Hoop City Jazz Festival, staged in the quad on the STCC campus and later at Riverfront Park. At first, he worked with founder John Osborne and other members of a committee to create a slate of performers, and later got involved with the fund-raising side of the venture.

017_plotkinevan-diff2017

“I really loved the idea, but I was troubled with the event not being in the downtown, and I said to John, ‘I don’t really want to do this anymore unless we move it to the heart of downtown in Court Square,’” Plotkin recalled, adding that, when he convinced Osborne and the mayor to make that move, the event, and the city, were energized by it.

When Osborne fell ill at the start of this decade and the event fell into limbo, Plotkin was instrumental in bringing it into a new era with a new name, the Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival.

Now entering its sixth year, the festival is doing what Plotkin envisioned it would — it is using music to bring a diverse audience of people to celebrate music and energize the city and its downtown.

“When I look out the audience and see the faces and the different demographic groups that attend, and the overwhelming joy that people have congregating in that park and listening to music … it’s kind of like a Woodstock,” he explained. “It’s like a love fest.

“Music breaks boundaries, it breaks barriers, and it brings people together,” he went on. “I know that’s cliché of me to say, but it just … seems to work.”

Many other initiatives that Plotkin has led have worked as well. That list includes Art & Soles, which placed dozens of five-foot sneakers around the downtown area and beyond; City Mosaic; the conversion of the ninth floor of 1350 Main St. into what’s known as Studio 9, a community gathering space; use of the front lobby — and now other spaces — at 1350 Main for use as gallery space; work in partnership with artist James Kitchen to bring many of his metal sculptures to the downtown area; and much more.

As he reflected more on Springfield, its downtown, and what it will take to make the city a destination, Plotkin talked about building blocks and how his work and that of others represents putting such blocks on top of one another to build something substantial — and lasting.

“I think one of the next big things that needs to happen is to focus on how we can redevelop some of the class B and C office space into market-rate or affordable housing so we can attract people down there,” he said of just one the ‘blocks,’ the all-important housing component. “But that’s only going to happen when we restore our parks, reconnect the river to the city, and do something about the lack of attention given to those aspects of building a vibrant downtown.

“If you start making moves in these directions, and if you start restoring your public spaces, these efforts will all lead to that general sense of well-being that people have,” he went on, “and the positive feelings that people have about being here and living here.”

Walking the Walk

It’s safe to say few people have ever traveled down Court House Walk. And even fewer have noticed the small plaque commemorating its restoration four decades ago or taken the time to read it.

Evan Plotkin has, and while reading, he allowed his mind to drift back to the day people gathered at that spot, gave speeches, and cut a ribbon.

Although he recognizes that the walkway is a comparatively modest example of a space that needs to be activated, of something once celebrated that has since been forgotten, it is nonetheless symbolic of everything he has worked for and continues to work for.

It’s not about the past and bringing back good old days, but about the future, and creating a Springfield that people will want to live in and work in and visit to take in a jazz festival.

Like art, and, yes, even food art, this work has become a passion for Plotkin, and it has made him a true Difference Maker.

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

Company Notebook Departments

MGM Springfield Moves to On-site Corporate Offices

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

ICNE Announces Addition of Eastman & Davis Insurance

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

Speaker Sisterhood Announces Partnership with Baystate Health

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

The Drama Studio Secures Permanent Home

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

River Valley Co-op Explores Potential Second Store Site

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

United Financial Bancorp Announces Q4 Results

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

Agenda Departments

Book Discussion with Judge Michael Ponsor

Feb. 5: The Hampden County Bar Assoc. invites the public to a reading and book talk with New York Times bestselling author Judge Michael Ponsor from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Fort, 8 Fort St., Springfield. Ponsor will discuss his first novel, The Hanging Judge, released in 2013, and his new novel, The One-Eyed Judge, a fast-paced and thought-provoking legal fiction. This event is a fund-raiser for the newly established Hampden County Bar Foundation. There is no fee for attending this event; however, a donation for the foundation is encouraged. Ponsor will be donating a portion of the sales of his books at the event to the foundation.

Heart Health Symposium

Feb. 6: Springfield College will welcome health experts from Baystate Medical Center, the New England Center for Functional Medicine, and the Springfield College Nutrional Sciences Program for a Heart Health Symposium in the Cleveland E. and Phyllis B. Dodge Room inside the Flynn Campus Union starting at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Led by Springfield College Department of Exercise Science and Sport Studies Chair Dr. Sue Guyer, a panel of experts, including Baystate Medical Center Cardiac Rehab and Wellness Manager Heidi Szalai, New England Center for Functional Medicine Medical Director Dr. Christopher Keroack, and Springfield College Nutritional Sciences Associate Professor Donna Chapman, will discuss topics ranging from risk factors for heart disease to the benefits of healthy living, and stressing the importance of good nutrition for a healthy heart. The symposium is a continuation of the Springfield College Exercise Is Medicine Speaker Series that is part of Guyer’s on-campus initiative while serving as the 2017-18 Springfield College Distinguished Professor of Humanics. Earlier this academic year, as part of the humanics project, Springfield College was officially registered as an Exercise Is Medicine on Campus institution. The mission of this is to foster collaborative relationships and leadership on campus between exercise, health, and other disciplines. The vision is to see all campus and community members across multiple disciplines discover, share, and adopt principles that will change the culture of chronic disease prevention and management. If you have a disability and require a reasonable accommodation to fully participate in this event, contact Laura Feeley as soon as possible at [email protected] or (413) 748-3178 to discuss your accessibility needs. Springfield College is a smoke- and tobacco-free campus.

Free Legal Help Hotline

Feb. 8: The Hampden County Bar Assoc. will hold a Legal Help Hotline in conjunction with Western New England University School of Law from 4 to 7 p.m. at Western New England University School of Law, 1215 Wilbraham Road, Springfield. The volunteers will provide legal advice on a variety of topics, including divorce and family law, bankruptcy, business, landlord/tenant, and real estate. Additionally, in light of recent immigration developments, attorneys with immigration-law experience will be available to answer questions. Spanish-speaking attorneys will also be available. Individuals needing advice should call (413) 796-2057 to speak to a volunteer.

‘Ethan at 21’ to Screen at Film Festival

Feb. 10-11: A film 12 years in the making features an Amherst family dealing with autism. Ethan at 21 is the showcase film at a film festival hosted by Pathlight, Whole Children, and Five College Realtors, with two showings and locations. The festival also features three short documentaries from the renowned Sprout Film Festival. All of the films feature individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Ethan at 21 is a challenging film that explores whether society is equipped to care for the growing population of young adults with disabilities, including autism. Shot over 12 years, it is also a funny, poignant, truthful, portrait of one family. “I began making this film when I was 26 and single,” said filmmaker Josephine Sittenfeld. “Over the past 11 years, I met my husband, married, and became a mother of two. I was always inspired by Ethan and his family, but making this film gained additional importance for me after I became a parent. Ethan’s parents are my heroes. Through their example, I’ve continually been reminded what good parenting is — and that, above all, it includes letting your child carve his own path.” This is a sneak peek screening of a film in progress, and will be shown on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2 to 4 p.m. at Mills Theater in Carr Hall at Bay Path University in Longmeadow; and on Sunday, Feb. 11, (4:30 to 6:30 p.m.) at Hadley Farms Meeting House in Hadley. The filmmaker is eager for audience feedback as she looks toward festival distribution and broadcast later this year. Sittenfeld, Ethan, and his family will be on hand for a question-and-answer period after each screening. The film festival also includes three short films from New York-based Sprout Film Festival, whose mission is “to inspire audiences, promote inclusion, and support transformative filmmaking as an integral part of social change.” Admission to either showing is $10 and includes a post-film reception as well as a panel discussion with the Ethan at 21 filmmaker. To learn more about Pathlight and Whole Children or to register for the film festival, visit www.wholechildren.org.

Talk with Journalist Linda Greenhouse

Feb. 11: Kimball Farms Life Care in Lenox will host Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Linda Greenhouse at 2 p.m. Greenhouse covered the U.S. Supreme Court for the New York Times for 30 years, and her talk will focus on current issues facing the court. Greenhouse is the Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence and Joseph M. Goldstein Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School, and writes a biweekly op-ed column for the New York Times as a contributing columnist. Her latest book, “Just a Journalist,” an autobiographical essay on the practice of journalism, was published this fall by Harvard University Press. Greenhouse was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Journalism (Beat Reporting) in 1998 “for her consistently illuminating coverage of the United States Supreme Court.” In 2004, she received the Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism and the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism. She was a Radcliffe Institute Medal winner in 2006. Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP to (413) 637-7043. Seating is limited. Kimball Farms Life Care, located at 235 Walker St. in Lenox, provides a continuum of care, including independent living, assisted living, memory care, short-term rehabilitation, and long-term skilled-nursing care.

40 Under Forty Nomination Deadline

Feb. 16: BusinessWest magazine will accept nominations for the 40 Under Forty Class of 2018 through the end of the work day (5 p.m.) on Friday, Feb 16. The annual program, now in its 12th year, recognizes rising stars within the Western Mass. community, which includes Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties. This year’s group of 40 will be profiled in the magazine’s April 30 edition, then toasted at the June 21 gala at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke (see below). The nomination form, which can be found online HERE, requests basic information and can be supported with other material, such as a résumé, testimonials, and even press clippings highlighting an individual’s achievements in their profession or service to their community.

Inclusive Sports Sampler for Young Adults with an IDD

Feb. 17: For parents of young adults who have an IDD (intellectual or developmental disability), there is one challenge shared by all: identifying inclusive and accessible recreational experiences in their local community that offer opportunities for peer connections and fun, at low cost. Best Buddies, CHD Disability Resources, and Extra Innings understand this challenge firsthand and have combined resources to offer a solution. These organizations are teaming up to present the Young Adult Sports Sampler. This event gives members of the community who have an IDD, ages 14-22, an opportunity to sample several activities at once, in one location. The Young Adult Sampler takes place from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at Extra Innings, 340 McKinstry Ave., #250, Chicopee. A wide range of accessible and inclusive activities will be offered, including dance and movement, martial arts, intro to sled hockey, Wiffle ball, baseball simulator, and intro to adaptive bikes. There is no cost to attend, but an RSVP is appreciated. Contact Jessica Levine at [email protected] by Saturday, Feb. 10. The snow date is March 3.

Difference Makers

March 22: The 10th annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House. The winners will be announced and profiled in the Jan. 22 issue. Difference Makers is a program, launched in 2009, that recognizes groups and individuals that are, as the name suggests, making a difference in this region. Tickets to the event cost $75 per person, with tables of 10 available. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100 or go HERE. Sponsors to date include Sunshine Village, Royal, P.C., and Health New England. Sponsorship opportunities are still available by calling (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

40 Under Forty Gala

June 21: BusinessWest’s 12th annual 40 Under Forty Gala is a celebration of 40 young business and civic leaders in Western Mass. The lavish cocktail party, to be held starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, will feature butlered hors d’oeuvres, food stations, and entertainment — and, of course, the presentation of the class of 2018. Also, the third Continued Excellence Award honoree will be announced. Tickets will go on sale soon at $75 per person (tables of 10 available), and the event always sells out quickly. For more information, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or e-mail [email protected]

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — A film 12 years in the making features an Amherst family dealing with autism. Ethan at 21 is the showcase film at a film festival hosted by Pathlight, Whole Children, and Five College Realtors, with two showings and locations the weekend of Feb. 10-11. The festival also features three short documentaries from the renowned Sprout Film Festival. All of the films feature individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Ethan at 21 is a challenging film that explores whether society is equipped to care for the growing population of young adults with disabilities, including autism. It is also a funny, poignant, truthful, portrait of one family.

Shot over 12 years, Ethan at 21 introduces Ethan as a curious, silly eleven-year-old with autism and follows him as he grows into a 21-year-old earning money on a landscaping crew and navigating his own independence. With his passions for music, farm machinery, and My Little Ponies, and his habit of self-talk and complicated dietary restrictions, Ethan and his autism affect his other family members in profound and complex ways. His two younger brothers discuss their roles in Ethan’s future, and his parents share their struggles to find a place for their son where he will find a community and live a life with meaning.

“I began making this film when I was 26 and single,” said filmmaker Josephine Sittenfeld. “Over the past 11 years, I met my husband, married, and became a mother of two. I was always inspired by Ethan and his family, but making this film gained additional importance for me after I became a parent. Ethan’s parents are my heroes. Through their example, I’ve continually been reminded what good parenting is — and that, above all, it includes letting your child carve his own path. As I’ve shared meals with Ethan’s family, watched the Super Bowl with them, and even traveled with them (and slept on the floor of their hotel room), I’ve learned that, even when life is frustrating, things often work out — just not necessarily in the way you expect.”

This is a sneak peek screening of a film in progress, and will be shown on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2 to 4 p.m. at Mills Theater in Carr Hall at Bay Path University in Longmeadow; and on Sunday, Feb. 11, (4:30 to 6:30 p.m.) at Hadley Farms Meeting House in Hadley.

The filmmaker is eager for audience feedback as she looks toward festival distribution and broadcast later this year. Sittenfeld, Ethan, and his family will be on hand for a question-and-answer period after each screening.

The film festival also includes three short films from New York-based Sprout Film Festival, whose mission is “to inspire audiences, promote inclusion, and support transformative filmmaking as an integral part of social change.”

Admission to either showing is $10 and includes a post-film reception as well as a panel discussion with the Ethan at 21 filmmaker. To learn more about Pathlight and Whole Children or to register for the film festival, visit www.wholechildren.org.

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

Linda Tyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pittsfield at a Glance

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

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

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

Multi-pronged Approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safety and Numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Company Notebook Departments

Hazen Paper Co. Honored with Holography Award

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

Northampton Branch of Family Legacy Partners Announces Name Change

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

Berkshire Hills Touts Employee, Community Investments

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

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

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

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

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

Country Bank Donates to Local Food Pantries

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

TommyCar Auto Group Gives Back to Local Veterans

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

Beetle Press Celebrates 20th Anniversary This Year

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

Brattleboro Retreat’s Psychology Internship Program Accredited

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

Daily News

EAST LONGMEADOW — A Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund information session will be held on Feb. 2 from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at Bay Path University’s Philip H. Ryan Health Science Center in East Longmeadow. To register, visit workforcetrainingfund.org/events or call (413) 565-1555.

The Workforce Training Fund Program (WTFP) helps address business productivity and competitiveness by providing resources to Massachusetts businesses to fund training for current and newly hired employees. In order to qualify, businesses must pay into the fund. All for-profit companies automatically pay into the fund. Nonprofit organizations can visit www.workforcetrainingfund.org and click on ‘programs’ for more information and to learn if the organization qualifies. Government agencies are not eligible to apply.

While available to businesses and organizations of all sizes, the WTFP focuses on small to medium-sized businesses that would not be able to invest in improving employee skills without the assistance of the Fund. As recently as October, the Workforce Training Fund Program awarded grants to 121 Massachusetts companies and organizations totaling $11.9 million. More than $17 million in grants were distributed in FY17.

Bay Path’s Strategic Alliances division, which offers customized talent and leadership programs, as well as specialized training, is hosting this event. The WTFP information session is part of “How to Build Company Loyalty Through Professional Development” and will include an overview of the features and benefits of each Workforce Training Fund grant program, the amount of available funding, program guidelines, and how to apply for each grant. Participants will have direct access to staff to ask questions about the WTFP and training opportunities.

Speakers on the event agenda include Kristen Rayne, outreach manager, Workforce Training Fund at Commonwealth Corp.; Stephen Brand, executive director of Global Learning, Strategic Alliances at Bay Path University; and two talent-development experts with vast experience in the Western Mass. region.

The Workforce Training Fund is a program of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, administered by Commonwealth Corp.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield has moved into new corporate offices at 95 State St., soon to be called One MGM Way. Located across from the Hampden County Superior Court, and adjacent to what will be MGM Springfield’s South End Market, the building will be home to members of the MGM Springfield executive and administrative teams.

“Moving on site is a great way to kick off the year of our opening,” said Michael Mathis, president and COO of MGM Springfield. “We have a growing workforce, and this office space better suits our ever-expanding needs as this momentous year unfolds. It’s an exciting transition for all of us.”

Like other elements of the property’s integrated downtown design, the 11-story building celebrates Springfield’s heritage while preserving its iconic past. Built in 1929, the building was designed in the classical revival style by Burton Geckler as an annex to 1200 Main St. It was formerly known as the MassMutual building at 95 State St., and has since undergone a complete renovation, including new mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and finishes. MGM carefully conserved the exterior façade and maintained many of the lobby’s original features.

“I am proud of the effort and care that our first-in-class construction team has put into preserving Springfield’s history throughout the property,” Mathis said. “This building is just one example of the many that will be unveiled this year.”

Springfield firms Specs Design Group and Dietz & Co. Architects collaborated on the outfitting and design of the employee space with Las Vegas-based Friedmutter Group. Springfield-based Fontaine Bros. Inc. served as general contractor and stewarded the project through the construction phase.

“As a company that has called Springfield home for over 85 years, we were excited to oversee construction of this critical portion of the MGM resort, and we are proud to have played a role in helping bring this unprecedented economic-development project to our city,” said David Fontaine Jr., vice president of Fontaine Bros.

MGM Springfield’s new corporate offices boast collaboration and work areas, conference and meeting spaces, open cubicle areas, and private executive offices. The design scheme includes warm colors, reclaimed wood, and brick veneers throughout the space.

“With an inviting new layout and fresh faced finishes, this tired, 1930s office building becomes a hip, flexible environment for a young, energetic workforce,” said Elise Irish, principal of Specs Design Group.

The corporate offices will be located on floors two through eight. Approximately 50 employees have moved into the space. At full staffing, the area is expected to accommodate more than 300 employees. Activities at the approximately 85,000-square-foot employee offices will cover all aspects of the day-to-day operations for MGM Springfield.

Anyone interested in learning about career opportunities should visit MGM Springfield’s Career Center, which will be open 10 a.m to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and 1-7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. During those hours, an MGM representative may be reached at (413) 273-5052.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Hazen Paper Co. was recognized with an Excellence in Holography Award from the International Hologram Manufacturers Assoc. (IHMA) at its annual conference in Barcelona, Spain. The annual awards recognize outstanding achievement in pioneering innovative holographic products or techniques, as well as the best use of holography in commercial applications. Singled out from a record number of entries, Hazen was awarded Best Applied Decorative Packaging Product for its own promotional 2017 calendar and supporting brochure.

The six-panel brochure and related poster/calendar each highlight different capabilities and product characteristics, though they both feature a dramatic image of a woman dressed in a gown of gold satin, who appears radiant and three-dimensional, thanks to custom Hazen Holography. According to the IHMA, the two are “a beautiful display of holographic art with many technical features.”

The brochure, which showcases more than 50 holograms to inspire design and packaging innovators, was constructed of holographic film laminated to both sides of a paperboard cover stock. The film acts as a hinge at the folds and seals the stock, resulting in enhanced lay-flat properties and durability. Holography on the front is registered to print as well as to the holography on the back, without re-combine lines.

The poster/calendar demonstrates Hazen’s large-format holographic capability and compatibility with green objectives, digitally printed on transfer-metallized Hazen Envirofoil, an environmentally friendly product that uses less than 1% of the aluminum of traditional foil laminate, none of the film, and is recyclable as paper. Film-free Envirofoil’s ultra-thin metallized layer also delivers exceptional lay-flat results on this oversized piece.

The IHMA, a nonprofit organization registered in the United Kingdom, promotes the cooperation of over 100 of the world’s foremost holographic companies to maintain the highest professional, security, and quality standards in support of its customers. IHMA members, who are scrupulously vetted, adhere to a “strict code of practice governing standards, business ethics, customer service, respect for and protection of customers’ and each others’ intellectual property.” In 2016, the IHMA presented Hazen President John Hazen with the Brian Monaghan Award for Business Innovation. Hazen Paper has been a member of the IHMA since 2005.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Chestnut Acquisitions LLC, an affiliate of Davenport Properties, has acquired 151 Chestnut St. in Springfield.

The abandoned 70,000 SF building, severely damaged in downtown Springfield’s 2012 gas explosion, is part of the city’s planned Innovation District. Davenport, best known as MGM Springfield’s development partner, is also developer of Davenport Square on Main Street and owner of Springfield Plaza. Charles Irving, a principal of the company, began investing in Springfield in 1994.

The building at 151 Chestnut St. was built in 1916 for the Willys-Overland Motor Company and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1983. According to Charles Irving, “our intent is to celebrate this unique property. Willys is a treasured automotive name in Springfield and US history.”

Willys-Overland built similar buildings in Detroit, St Louis, and Toledo. Davenport’s interest in Chestnut St. was prompted by successful redevelopment of the Detroit structure. “Willys Overland Lofts” in Detroit features mid-size residential units with street level retail.

“This will be a truly transformative development for our downtown,” said Mayor Domenic J. Sarno. “The addition of market rate housing at the Willys Overland building will be a catalyst to future development and Davenport has been a well-respected developer not only in Springfield but throughout the country.”

The Horton Group of Connecticut joins Davenport as a partner in Chestnut St. Ken Horton is known for development and construction of office and residential properties. The company’s most recent project (The Residences at High Street in Guilford CT) received the Home Building Industry (HOBI) Project of the Year Award, the highest honor the organization bestows.

The business plan for 151 Chestnut St. is in development. “Our hope is to create a project similar in scope and spirit to Detroit,” said Juan Prieto (Davenport). “The challenge is calibration of Springfield’s market rents with project cost.”

On Jan. 4, Davenport is scheduled to meet with Springfield’s Historic Commission. At that time, the company will review initial plans and request Commission support for historic tax credits. According to Davenport, feasibility of redevelopment, beginning in 2018, is dependent on tax credits and other forms of assistance.

Given proximity of the new train station and transformation of downtown by MGM Resorts International, Davenport believes the Innovation District is the next step forward.

“We’re starting to see developers building off of the blocks that we put in place with Union Station and MGM Springfield,” said Kevin Kennedy, Chief Development Officer. “The area that was affected by the gas explosion is really the next frontier of development in our downtown, and Willys Overland can be the jewel of the neighborhood.”

Company Notebook Departments

UMass Amherst Receives $1.1 Million Grant for Large Battery Project

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

The Yoga Shop Opens First Massachusetts Location

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

Bradley Airport Recognized in Condé Nast Traveler

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

Bay Path Reports on Recent Charitable Activities

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

Valley Health Systems Supports 13 Families over the Holidays

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

OMG Roofing Products Introduces RhinoBond Plate Marking Tool

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

Jean Kelley, Joe Malmborg Attend National Conference

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

Sections Travel and Tourism

Happy Trails

A Ski Butternut instructor

A Ski Butternut instructor — one of many who teach lessons for a wide range of ability levels — helps a youngster improve on the slopes.

When operating in a competitive industry with far fewer customers than it boasted a few decades ago, expanding one’s operations carries some risk.

But Ski Butternut believes the niche it has carved out in Great Barrington — a moderately sized mountain that focuses on a family environment and boasts a robust learn-to-ski program — will translate well about 25 miles to the east, which is why it purchased the Blandford Ski Area earlier this fall and rechristened it Ski Blandford.

“It has a long history and a rich tradition; it’s been there since 1936,” said Dillon Mahon, Ski Butternut’s marketing director. “It’s also close to a large population in Springfield, and we’re hoping to attract quite a few people from that area.”

The Blandford resort, which has been owned by the Springfield Ski Club for the past 81 years, has struggled with declines in memberships and visits, and decided in July to sell the property to Ski Butternut owner Jeff Murdoch for $269,000.

“We purchased what was basically a private ski club,” Mahon said. “They didn’t advertise it, and a lot of people didn’t know it was there. We’re reopening it this year and making a lot of improvements, from renovating the lodges to upgrading snow-making equipment and grooming equipment.”

Also important, he added, is spreading the word that Ski Blandford will represent what Butternut does: a place that welcomes families and beginners and helps them navigate the world of skiing and snowboarding — and convinces them to keep coming back. Ski Blandford’s website has been redesigned in the style of the Ski Butternut site — only with less expensive pricing to persuade mountain enthusiasts to give the facility a try.

“It’s a great family atmosphere on a good-sized mountain close to home,” Mahon said, again touching on the emphasis that has kept Ski Butternut successful.

“That’s been a big part of why we’re successful,” he went on. “Butternut focuses on a family atmosphere and on learning, bringing people into the sport. It’s kind of a startup mountain that gives people great service. The ski school here is large and can accommodate large amounts of children and adults. Learn-to-ski weekends made Butternut successful, and it’s something we plan to mirror at Blandford as well.”

The First Time

It’s a critical element, he said, to bringing in new blood at a time when the popularity of skiing has been experiencing a slow decline. In a one-year period from early 2008 to early 2009, 11.24 million Americans took to the slopes, according to industry sources. Eight years later — from the spring of 2016 to early 2017 — the number was 9.78 million. And snowboarding has seen an even more precipitous fall.

That’s when people think about skiing. I can send people e-mails and Facebook posts all day, but when a fresh bunch of snow is on their doorstep, that changes people’s mindset toward skiing.”

One reason is that what’s known as the conversion rate, or the percentage of first-timers who embrace the slopes and return for more, currently stands at around 15% nationally. Mahon said Ski Butternut has made a conscious effort to boost it.

“There are a lot of barriers to entry,” he told BusinessWest. “We as a resort are trying to knock down those barriers, to make it a more accessible sport, make it easier for people to get into the sport.”

For instance, the resort has long offered a one-day beginner’s package that includes access to the milder hills, a group lesson, and equipment rentals, all for $75. After that, an all-mountain pass with a group lesson and rentals costs between $75 and $100, depending on age.

“We’ve had a lot of success bundling those offerings for beginners, giving them a smaller piece to bite off that might be more digestable than a season-long rental and saying ‘good luck,’ Mahon said.

For its part, Ski Blandford is rolling out beginner packages for between $70 and $80, and all-mountain packages of lift ticket, rentals, and lesson for between $70 and $85, depending on the day of the week — slightly less than at Butternut.

“For us as an industry, and especially at Butternut and soon at Blandford, that’s part of our overall strategy to attract more skiers as opposed to putting up more barriers,” he went on. “Basically, we want to hold their hand as they learn to ski and make it a better experience for them. When people try skiing for the first time, it’s hard. How do you choose equipment? How do you ride a lift? We’re doing our best to break down those barriers and make it affordable for beginners.”

After that, well, the challenge is getting visitors to come back. Several years ago, Ski Butternut undertook an extensive upgrade of its snow-making system to guarantee ski-worthy conditions no matter what kind of winter New England experiences.

“We’re open with or without Mother Nature’s cooperation. That’s the way things go,” Mahon said. “We have great snow-making equipment, and we’ll be updating with the equivalent at Blandford as well — more guns, higher capacity. We’re open hell or high water.”

That said, “it also helps quite a bit to get a bunch of snow,” he conceded. “That’s when people think about skiing. I can send people e-mails and Facebook posts all day, but when a fresh bunch of snow is on their doorstep, that changes people’s mindset toward skiing.”

The typical season brings well over 100 inches of snow, but some are drier. Even in those years, typically the weather will remain cold enough to consistently manufacture snow. Temperatures below 26 degrees are ideal for making snow, because the water that emerges from the nozzles in tiny droplets are almost instantly supercooled to create the best-quality snow.

Beyond the Slopes

Ski Butternut has also done well with its non-skiing activities, such as its popular tubing park, complete with a mechanized lift to keep riders energized for their two-hour sessions.

“Tubing is a different market in some ways,” Mahon said. “Everyone likes tubing, while not everyone skis. So it’s great for families with little kids — something to do for a quick day out.”

Meanwhile, the event calendar features plenty of activities, from race events to wine and beer tastings; from Saturday concerts on the lodge deck to a ‘ski and paint’ day on Jan. 28, which is exactly what it sounds like. In the summer, the mountain stays open to hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, and the resort is also the site of the annual Berkshires Arts Festival.

“Some of these events aren’t necessarily skiing-based events,” he noted. “We want to draw on the local community and give people a good experience so they keep showing up.”

He and the ownership team at Butternut hope for the same at Ski Blandford, which is why Murdoch is investing in painting the lodges, upgrading snow guns and grooming equipment, and, in general, letting people know the resort is on the way back.

“We’re making a lot of improvements over the next couple of years,” Mahon said. “It’s going to get better and better.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Education Sections

Connecting to a Better Future

online-medi-517935648useIt’s no secret that hospitals and other healthcare settings are pushing for nurses with higher education levels, but it can be difficult for a working RN, often with plenty of family responsibilities, to go back to school. The RN to BSN Completer Program at the American Women’s College of Bay Path University solves that issue with a fully online format and plenty of support to help students succeed — and open doors that had previously been closed.

The 22 registered nurses who graduated in May from the American Women’s College of Bay Path University with their bachelor’s degrees — the first class to complete the new, innovative program — weren’t just improving their own career options, although they certainly did that.

On a broader level, they were responding to a call from the National Institute of Medicine for 80% of nurses to eventually achieve a baccalaureate level of education, one that encompasses the big-picture issues faced in settings ranging from hospitals to skilled-nursing facilities to public-health organizations.

“The national challenge for 80% of nurses to be BSN-prepared by 2020 indicated to us a great need for a flexible, affordable solution for registered nurses whose lives are already so full, between caring for others at work and, on top of that, having families, hobbies, and other personal responsibilities,” said Amanda Gould, chief administrative officer for the American Women’s College (TAWC).

Bay Path’s solution, she said, is an accelerated, 100% online program that lets students — many of whom are already juggling an RN position with family responsibilities — an opportunity to broaden their education on their terms, around their rigorous schedules.

The RN to BSN Completer Program, as it’s officially known, allows for licensed, registered nurses with an associate or diploma degree to return to college to complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Bay Path’s program is fully online, allowing students to enroll and participate from across the country, and the accelerated format means that, for most students, the degree can be achieved in 18 months.

Post-graduation surveys of the inaugural graduating class revealed that two quickly found promotions, one as a hospital ER manager and another as a manager of care coordination, said Maura Devlin, deputy chief learning officer at TAWC. A new survey underway is expected to reveal more such career moves, as well as a number of graduates preparing to continue on toward master’s degrees at other schools.

Amanda Gould

Amanda Gould says the online RN to BSN program is a tangible response to the national call for 80% of nurses to eventually have bachelor’s degrees.

Programs like this one will continue to bring the Bay State’s number of BSN-level nurses closer to 80% — the state had already set a goal of 65%, with the number currently around 50% — but it will also open doors that may be starting to close for RNs. Although there are no official numbers, Gould and Devlin said, RNs see hospitals and other organizations pushing for higher levels of education, and favoring BSN-level nurses in hiring and promotions.

Bay Path’s new nursing program, now educating its second class of enrollees, is doing what it can to meet that demand, and early returns have been positive.

Expanding Access

Backing up a little, the American Women’s College was founded in 2013 with a mission to expand access to higher education to the 76 million American women who do not have a college degree. Its 28 programs run the gamut from accounting to criminal justice; from child psychology to early childhood education; from entrepreneurship to food science and safety.

Many students enrolled in various RN-to-BSN programs in this region haven’t necessarily had to leave a job to do so, but they have been challenged to fit classes in between work and family life. The online option at TAWC allows students to engage in classroom activity — much of which takes place on forums and discussion boards — on their own schedule.

The RN-to-BSN track technically requires 120 credits, but 30 are awarded up front for the students’ RN training and experience, and other credits (up to 84, in fact) can be transferred in as well, depending on the student’s prior education, training, and experience.

Devlin said the courses are patient-focused and reflect the ‘nine essentials’ of baccalaureate nursing education established by the American Assoc. of Colleges of Nursing. These include a liberal education base; evidence-based practice; quality care and patient safety; information management; policy, finance, and the regulatory environment; communication and collaboration; population health management; professionalism and values; and general nursing practice.

“These are our program outcomes,” Gould said, adding that administrators have explicitly defined some fields students may see as options for professional growth upon attaining their degree, such as case manager, infection control, home care, hospice care, occupational nurse, managerial positions, public health, risk management, and specialty care.

There’s a self-reflective element to the program as well, Devlin said, and students are encouraged to consider their unique attributes and leadership skills. “The program has the BSN candidates thinking about themselves as leaders in the field of nursing, and positions them to go on to those types of roles.”

Classes are run in a cohort model, meaning the students navigate through the courses together, although they don’t have to be online at the same time. The classes are conducted in six-week sessions — six of them per year — and taught by master’s level nursing educators.

“When we surveyed the first cohort of 22 students in May, every one of them said they would recommend the program,” Gould said. “That was really validating.”

The American Women’s College was developed to improve performance, retention, and graduation rates for nontraditional learners, and does so partly through the development of Social Online Universal Learning (SOUL), a data-driven approach to online education at TAWC, Gould said. Among its features, SOUL features customized instruction, dedicated educator coaches to help students who start to struggle, and virtual learning communities to engage other students who share their goals and professional interests.

And there are definitely some common challenges. Seventy percent of TAWC students are first-generation college attendees, one-third are single mothers, and more than half are Pell-eligible, which speaks to economic need. “We really do feel it’s kind of mission-driven, in that we’re creating a new entry point to college for this population,” she said.

She cited one student, a 38-year-old who had dropped out of high school when she became pregnant, who now works as an administrative assistant. “Her daughter is now college age, and she wanted to be a role model for her daughter,” Gould explained, so she enrolled in the American Women’s College and is now one of its top students.

Maura Devlin

Maura Devlin says the first cohort of graduates is already seeing broadened career opportunities and even promotions.

“She’s kind of representative of a lot of students we serve who are trying to make a better life for themselves and their families,” she told BusinessWest. “Their motto has become ‘it’s my time.’ For a long time, they’ve put their families first, and they’ve finally come to a place where they give themselves permission to get their education.”

First Steps

The American Women’s College received some good news in October when the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) voted to grant full accreditation through 2022 to the RN to BSN Completer Program.

“The collective commitment to quality education demonstrated each day by our faculty, staff, and community partners to provide our students with the knowledge and skills they need to be outstanding nurses is at the heart of our work, and our program status reflects that,” said Marjorie Bessette, director of the Nursing program.

Meanwhile, TAWC maintains partnerships with Baystate Health and Mercy Medical Center to work together to increase the number of nurse practitioners with BSN degrees.

“As a nurse, I want to give the best possible care that I can to patients. It’s my job to save lives. Completing my BSN has ensured that I can do just that,” said Laura Mazur, a nurse at Baystate Medical Center who graduated from Bay Path’s program in May. “I used to think of myself as an in-class learner, but as a floor nurse working the midnight shift, I simply didn’t have the time to spend in a classroom. The online program through the American Women’s College fit well into my life.”


Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Briefcase Departments

Report Features Advice on Nonprofit Fund-raising

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN) released its latest edition of its Commonwealth Insights report series. The report, titled “From the Experts: Advice to Inform Your Organization’s Fundraising,” features advice from interviews with four successful Massachusetts nonprofit fund-raisers in an effort to inform and support year-end fund-raising efforts of nonprofit organizations. In an early 2017 survey of its membership, nearly 60% of MNN member nonprofits cited fund-raising as the largest challenge facing their organization. With many nonprofits currently accelerating their fund-raising operations to coincide with the end of the calendar year, MNN believes this report will be useful to its over 700 nonprofit members representing every region of the state, as well as members of the state’s nonprofit sector at large. “Fund-raising is an ever-present challenge — and opportunity — for all types of nonprofits. This edition of Commonwealth Insights focuses on ideas that can help nonprofits take their fund-raising to new heights,” said Jim Klocke, CEO of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network. The report is centered on general strategies for fund-raisers to consider in their efforts and is supplemented with actionable advice. In a fast-paced and changing fund-raising landscape, all four experts agree that the need to consistently engage donors and provide them with new, creative ways to be involved with a nonprofit organization is critical to building and retaining support. The report also touches upon a concern of those working in fund-raising, particularly at smaller organizations: that current events and overwhelming needs from across the country and world could further heighten the competition for donors’ support. The interviewed experts agreed that, while this concern is understandable, donors of all ages are looking for even more ways to support causes they care about. “I think that many people are looking for more ways to make a difference, and I think that is what we need right now,” said Margaret Keller, executive director of Community Access to the Arts in Great Barrington, one of the experts featured in the report. “Donors are more engaged and more committed than ever.” This is the third edition of Commonwealth Insights MNN has published in 2017. Earlier editions focused on federal tax reform and the Earned Income Tax Credit. The series is made possible by support from the Barr Foundation.

Financial Literacy Ambassadors Project Receives Funding

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Partners for Community Action Inc. has been awarded a Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) Special Projects grant from the Department of Housing and Community Development to support its Financial Literacy Ambassadors project. The Financial Literacy Ambassadors project is designed to facilitate the training and certification of multi-cultural and multi-lingual community residents to become peer-to-peer trainers and deliver financial education to their own communities. “We thank the department and Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay for their support,” said Paul Bailey, executive director at Springfield Partners. “With this round of funding, we plan to identify interested applicants to train and become certified financial-literacy educators capable of delivering peer training to others in the community in multiple languages.” Applications are being accepted now. Anyone interested in applying should contact T.J. Steele at (413) 263-6500, ext. 6568, or [email protected], or Stephen Plummer at (413) 263-6500, ext. 6567, or [email protected] Springfield Partners is the official anti-poverty agency serving Springfield’s poor and low-income community since 1964. It offers programs and services in financial literacy, credit counseling, weatherization, emergency fuel assistance, multi-cultural Alzheimer’s, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, early education and care, community scholarship, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, veteran services, eviction clinic, and housing counseling.

Single-family Home Sales in Pioneer Valley Up in October

SPRINGFIELD — Single-family home sales were up 20.6% in the Pioneer Valley in October compared to the same time last year, while the median price rose 6% to $205,550, according to the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley. In Franklin County, sales were down 13.1%, while the median price also fell 13.1% from a year earlier. In Hampden County, sales were up 24.4%, while the median price was up 3.6%. And in Hampshire County, sales rose 24.4% from October 2016, while the median price was up 1.9%.

Community Collaboration Boosts OT Services at Square One

SPRINGFIELD — In support of the Square One mission to ensure that all children have the foundation they need to be successful in life, Bay Path University and Eversource have formed a partnership to enhance the clinical services provided to Square One children. Eversource recently awarded a $2,500 grant to the university for its Play Matters Therapy program. The funding will be utilized to expand current services and broaden the scope of assessments that will be conducted with children in this program, incorporate nutrition curriculum, and to purchase materials and equipment needed to facilitate movement groups or treatment components. Students and faculty from Bay Path have provided occupational therapy (OT) services to children at the Square One Family Center on King Street in Springfield for nearly three years through Play Matters Therapy. The Eversource grant further cements the longstanding partnership that dates back years prior to the conception of Play Matters. “From the ground up, we started building the Play Matters Therapy program that provided free, community-based, occupational-therapy services to the children and families of Square One,” said Amanda Lizotte, coordinator of Emerging Practice Fieldwork at Bay Path University. “The purpose of this program is three-fold: to provide services to children in need to support their overall development, prepare them for entrance to kindergarten, and ensure successful participation in life activities; to provide support to the child’s network, which includes parents, caregivers, and educators, by disseminating resources and education; and to provide Bay Path occupational therapy students, the majority of whom will remain in the region to live and work, with critical experiential learning opportunities that enable them to professionally grow and develop into future occupational-therapy practitioners.” Under close supervision by clinical OT instructors, students hone their skills as OTs as they work with children across a variety of focus areas — gross and fine motor development, visual motor skills, sensory integration, social skills, nutrition, self-esteem, stress relief, and coping mechanisms, to name a few — in an attempt to help bridge a crucial gap during a critical time in the child’s development. A full-time therapist from the university is also on site at Square One so that services may be provided even when Bay Path students are not present. “We are so grateful to Bay Path and Eversource for this unique collaboration,” said Kristine Allard, chief Development & Communications officer for Square One. “Many of our children experience trauma in their lives as a result of the challenges they are faced with at home. Poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, abuse, and neglect all place a tremendous strain on their health and development. Our partnership with Bay Path is meeting a critical need. We are very grateful to them, as well as Eversource for recognizing the importance of this work.”

Chamber Corners Departments

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

• Dec. 14: 1Berkshire Annual Meeting, 5:30-7:30 p.m., hosted by MASS MoCA, North Adams. Join us in MASS MoCA’s newest space to hear all about our 2017 accomplishments and to hear about what is new with 1Berkshire for 2018.

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

• Dec. 11: Tour of Polish National Credit Union’s newly renovated Front Street office, 4:30-6:30 p.m., hosted by PNCU, 923 Front St., Chicopee. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• Dec. 20: Salute Breakfast with Hampden County Sherriff Nick Cocchi, 7:15-9 a.m., hosted by the Log Cabin, 500 Easthampton Road, Holyoke. Sponsored by CHH Engraving, Health New England, and Westfield Bank. Cost: $23 for members, $28 for non-members, which includes a breakfast buffet. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

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

• Dec. 13: Holiday Business Breakfast, 7:15-9 a.m., hosted by Log Cabin, 500 Easthampton Road, Holyoke. Sponsored by Holyoke Medical Center and Holyoke Gas & Electric. Business networking and member recognitions over a hearty buffet breakfast. Also features the second annual pop-up shop featuring SPARK entrepreneurs. Cost: $25 for members in advance, $30 for non-members and at the door. Sign up online at holyokechamber.com.

• Dec. 21: Chamber After Hours, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Jay’s Bed & Breakfast, 1109 Dwight St. Sponsored by MD Beauty Salon. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members and at the door. Sign up online at holyokechamber.com.

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

• Jan. 10: January Arrive @5, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Hitchcock Center for the Environment, 845 West St., Amherst. Sponsored by PeoplesBank. A networking event. Cost: $10 for members.

• Feb. 7: February Arrive @5, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Christopher Heights, 50 Village Hill Road, Northampton. A networking event. Cost: $10 for members.

• March 7: March Arrive @5, 5-7 p.m., hosted by 50/50 Fitness, 251 Russell St., Hadley. Sponsored by Applied Mortgage, a division of Merrimack Mortgage Co. A networking event. Cost: $10 for members.

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

• Dec. 13: December After 5 Connection, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Westfield Technical Academy at Tiger’s Pride, 33 Smith Ave., Westfield. Sponsored by Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas, LLP; Marcotte Ford; and Vivid Hair Salon & Spa. Cost: free for chamber members, $10 for potential members (cash or credit paid at the door). Refreshments will be served, and a 50/50 raffle will benefit the chamber scholarship fund. Bring your business cards and make connections. Online registration will be available at www.westfieldbiz.org. For more information, call Pam at the chamber at (413) 568-1618.

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

• Dec. 12: Pastries, Politics and Policy, 9-10 a.m., hosted by UMass Center at Springfield, Tower Square, second floor, Springfield. Featuring state Secretary of Administration and Finance Michael Heffernan. Cost: $18 for members in advance ($23 at the door), $25 general admission ($30 at the door). To register, 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

• Jan. 18: Networking Lunch, noon to 1:30 p.m., hosted by Carrabba’s Italian Grill, West Springfield. Only members or guests of members may 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 [email protected]

Agenda Departments

Freedom Credit Union Gift Drive for Needy Kids

Through Dec. 21: For the 10th year, Freedom Credit Union is partnering with the Department of Children and Families to provide gifts to children in need this holiday season. Every branch of the credit union has a tree filled with tags that show the gift request from area children. Anyone who goes into Freedom branches can choose a tag from the tree, purchase the requested gift, and bring it back to the branch unwrapped by Thursday, Dec. 21.

Santa’s Trains at Look Park

Through Dec. 24: All aboard! Next stop … Santa’s Trains at Look Memorial Park. This holiday season, the park is celebrating with running model trains and locomotives whirling by displays set in a whimsical wonderland of Christmas favorites and village landscapes. The Garden House, transformed into a Victorian-style train station, offers all the sights and sounds of the holiday season. View enchanting, themed holiday trees; say hello to Santa’s helpers; chat with authentic engineers; and share that special visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus before relaxing with a holiday cookie and hot chocolate. Each evening features a special guest conductor and station master from the community greeting visitors. Santa’s Trains at Look Park is open to the public daily through Dec. 23 from 4 to 8 p.m. and Dec. 24 from 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Garden House at Look Memorial Park, 300 North Main St., Florence. This special holiday event is free for all ages. Visit www.lookpark.org for more information. Also, join us for a traditional hayride around the park to view more than 50 holiday light displays made by the grounds and maintenance staff. The cost is $5 per rider. Departures are every 20 minutes from 4:20 p.m. until 7:40 p.m., weather permitting. More than 20,000 visitors annually visit the park during the holiday season to visit Santa’s Trains, view the wonderland light displays, and share holiday dreams with Santa.

Strategic Alliances Webinar on ‘Impostor Syndrome’

Dec. 14: Strategic Alliances at Bay Path University will present a free online webinar, “Confident or Impostor?” on Thursday, Dec. 14 from noon to 1 p.m. Registration is strongly encouraged. For more information and to register, visit bit.ly/2jNcXB3. Research shows that 70% of the U.S. population has experienced ‘impostor syndrome’ at one time or another. Webinar participants will learn how to combat self-doubt and overcome the lack of confidence that results from impostor syndrome. The webinar will feature three panelists, Karen Hinds, Roxanne Kaufman Elliott, and Maureen Zappala, who will share their extensive knowledge and experience with leadership. Hinds is the founder and CEO of Workplace Success Group, an international firm that has been referred to as a training ground for future business leaders. She is also the author of The Leader’s Manual – A Young Adult’s Guide to the Global Workplace, Get Along, Get Ahead: 101 Courtesies for the New Workplace, and Networking for a Better Position & More Profit. She serves as a visiting professor for the Malcolm Baldrige School of Business at Post University; is a frequent guest on radio, TV, and podcasts, and is a former board member with the Connecticut chapter of the World Affairs Council. Elliott is a certified leadership development coach and facilitator with more than 30 years of business, strategy, and leadership-development experience across many different industries in both the profit and nonprofit worlds. She is an i3 Leadership Master and holds degrees from Sinclair College and Bowling Green State University, as well as numerous executive and leadership-development certifications from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the American Marketing Assoc., the Leadership Challenge, RAC, LLM Inc., and others. Zappala is an award-winning speaker, author, and presentation-skills coach. She is the founder of High Altitude Strategies and helps propel teams and individuals to peak performance. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Notre Dame, and spent more than 13 years at NASA’s Lewis Research Center (now Glenn Research Center), conducting aircraft engine research. She became the youngest and first female manager of NASA’s Propulsion Systems Laboratory, a jet-aircraft-engine test facility. Strategic Alliances is recognized by SHRM to offer professional-development credits (PDCs) SHRM-CPSM or SHRM-SCPSM. The webinar “Confident or Impostor?” is worth 1 PDC.

Boronski to Meet Business, Community Leaders

Dec. 18: Debra Boronski, regional director for the Massachusetts Office of Business Development (MOBD), will  hold office hours for business and community leaders on Monday, Dec. 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center office located in Building 101 of the STCC Technology Park, 1 Federal St., Springfield. Meetings will be held in the Peter Pan Room, located on the second floor. MOBD is the state’s one-stop source for businesses seeking to relocate to Massachusetts and businesses wishing to expand their current operations here. It offers a range of expertise and services to help businesses flourish in Massachusetts. Its staff operates in regions across the state, providing businesses with on-the-ground knowledge and viable connections. It works closely with the private and public sectors to coordinate a range of resources. Boronski oversees 117 cities and towns in Western Mass. and the Berkshires. Interested parties mail e-mail [email protected] or call (413) 733-5357 to reserve a time slot.

EMT Training, CNA Plus Programs at STCC

Starting Jan. 22: Springfield Technical Community College will again offer its popular Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Training Program, as well as the Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) Plus Program, both starting in January. The EMT program consists of about 171 hours of lectures, 15 to 20 hours of online instruction, an auto-extrication class, and an eight-hour clinical hospital emergency-room observation designed to prepare the student for the Massachusetts State Certification Examination. The program, based on the Department of Transportation curriculum for Basic Emergency Medical Technician, is approved by the Massachusetts Office of Emergency Medical Services. “The EMT program gives the student an excellent foundation in Basic Life Support skills and techniques and patient assessment,” said Paul Sheehan, director of the Workforce Development Center at STCC. “This program always fills up long before the start date, and applications are now being accepted. Daytime and evening classes start Jan. 22. Visit www.stcc.edu/wdc or call (413) 755-4225 to enroll. Meanwhile, the employment of CNAs is projected to grow by 19%, faster than average, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, which projects employers will add 279,600 CNA positions during the next decade. The CAN Plus Program at STCC is designed to provide participants with job skills that will allow entry into the healthcare field as well as preparation for the Massachusetts state board examination to become a certified nurse aide. Day classes, which start Jan. 22, will be held Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Students will receive clinical experience in a local nursing home under the supervision of registered nurse (RN) instructors. Major topics will include vital signs; moving and turning patients; personal-care basics; bed making; bed, bath, and feeding; record keeping; and responding to emergencies. This course will also include a Home Health Aide Training Certificate and an Enhanced Alzheimer’s Module. Students will attend a job fair scheduled at the conclusion of this program. Evening Classes for BASIC CNA start Jan. 28, and will be held Monday through Friday, 4-9:30 p.m. The Workforce Development Center at STCC offers a wide variety of entry-level health programs. Visit www.stcc.edu/wdc or call (413) 755-4225 to enroll.

EMT Training at HCC

Jan. 30 to April 28: Holyoke Community College is now enrolling students for its spring-term Emergency Medical Technician training program. The HCC EMT Training Program consists of 170-plus hours of in-class lectures and additional online study, training, field trips, and workshops that prepare students to take the state certification exam. The majority of the training takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays fom 6 to 10 p.m. at HCC’s new, state-of-the-art Center for Health Education, home to the college’s Nursing and Radiologic Technology programs. Last year, HCC received a $127,741 state Workforce Skills Capital Grant to purchase new equipment to enhance its EMT training program. The course uses equipment identical to that found in modern ambulances. The program makes extensive use of the medical simulation labs in HCC’s Center for Health Education. Some of the grant money was used to purchase a patient simulator specifically designed for EMT and paramedic training that hemorrages and can be hooked up to a defibrillator. The course is taught by instructor Mike Marafuga, an EMT with the Southwick Fire Department. For more information or to register, contact Ken White at (413) 552-2324 or [email protected]

Difference Makers

March 22: The 10th annual Difference Makers award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House. The winners will be announced and profiled in the Jan. 22 issue. Difference Makers is a program, launched in 2009, that recognizes groups and individuals that are, as the name suggests, making a difference in this region. Tickets to the event cost $75 per person, with tables of 10 available. To order, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100 or visit www.businesswest.com. Sponsors to date include Sunshine Village and Royal, P.C. Sponsorship opportunities are still available by calling (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College officially launched the new MCCTI Gaming School, where area residents interested in working as professional card dealers or croupiers at MGM Springfield can start taking training classes early next year.

HCC and STCC, through TWO, their Training and Workforce Options collaborative, and MCCTI, the Massachusetts Casino Career Training Institute, will run the gaming school on the ninth floor of 95 State St., Springfield. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission recently issued a certificate to MCCTI to operate the school.

“MGM Springfield is inspired by our educational and workforce-development partners’ strong commitment to creating a healthier regional economy through career opportunities,” said Alex Dixon, general manager for MGM Springfield. “We are grateful for their willingness to learn about and adapt teachings for the gaming and hospitality industry. Today, we celebrate this milestone and look forward to hiring the first-ever table-game professionals in the Commonwealth.”

The launch event also signaled the opening of registration for training classes, which will begin Feb. 26 in anticipation of the opening of the $960 million MGM Springfield resort casino in September 2018.

Jeffrey Hayden, vice president of Business and Community Services for HCC, who also serves as executive director of TWO and MCCTI, noted that the MGM International website prominently features two new resort casinos MGM is building that are literally half a world apart, one in Springfield and another in Macau.

“There will be a $1 billion facility one block from here,” he said. “The show is coming to Springfield.”

A full schedule of training classes, along with course descriptions, prices, and school policies is available on the MCCTI website at www.mccti.org under ‘Gaming School,’ where job seekers can also register and explore other employment possibilities with MGM.

“The citizens of the region want to work in positions that provide a livable wage and the potential for advancement,” said Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. “MGM Springfield will provide both, right in the heart of our region in downtown Springfield. I want to thank the community-college presidents for their continued dedication to providing people with the education and skills they need to be successful in the job market.”

Jim Peyser, Massachusetts secretary of Education, added that “this is truly a great day for Springfield and a great day for Massachusetts. MCCTI is not just a targeted solution to a specific workforce challenge, it’s also a model for how we, collectively, can work together as employers, colleges, state government, local government, and a variety of other public and private partners.”

Robert Westerfield, vice president of Table Games for MGM Springfield, said starting out as a dealer with MGM can truly open up career pathways with the organization.

“I started off as a craps dealer,” he said. “I stand before you as vice president of Table Games. Anybody can do it. If you bring the attitude, we’ll give you the aptitude.”

In 2012, the presidents of the state’s 15 community colleges signed a memorandum of understanding with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to work collaboratively to provide training for casino jobs in each of the state’s three defined casino regions: Greater Boston, Southeastern Mass., and Western Mass. In the Western Mass. region, MCCTI is operated by TWO.

“We know that economic development and workforce development are not separate efforts,” said STCC President John Cook. “It is imperative that economic and workforce development are integrated for the benefit of our region’s businesses and citizens. The investment of MGM Springfield will allow many of our citizens to begin the process of getting employed and establishing a career pathway.”

Added HCC President Christina Royal, “I particularly appreciate HCC’s historic and continuing partnerships with STCC in support of the workforce needs of area businesses. Both colleges offer a wide variety of educational and training options for job seekers and incumbent workers in industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, engineering, hospitality, culinary arts, and many other fields. MCCTI and events like today reinforce the important role community colleges play in the state and regional economy.”

The MCCTI Gaming School will provide dealer training in blackjack, roulette, craps, poker, and other casino games. Participants who successfully complete training programs for at least two different table games will be guaranteed an ‘audition,’ or tryout, for a job at MGM Springfield.

Daily News

FLORENCE — All aboard! Next stop … Santa’s Trains at Look Memorial Park. This holiday season, the park is celebrating with running model trains and locomotives whirling by displays set in a whimsical wonderland of Christmas favorites and village landscapes.

The Garden House, transformed into a Victorian-style train station, offers all the sights and sounds of the holiday season. View enchanting, themed holiday trees; say hello to Santa’s helpers; chat with authentic engineers; and share that special visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus before relaxing with a holiday cookie and hot chocolate. Each evening features a special guest conductor and station master from the community greeting visitors.

Santa’s Trains at Look Park is open to the public daily Dec. 8 through Dec. 23 from 4 to 8 p.m. and Dec. 24 from 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Garden House at Look Memorial Park, 300 North Main St., Florence. This special holiday event is free for all ages. Visit www.lookpark.org for more information.

Also, join us for a traditional hayride around the park to view more than 50 holiday light displays made by the grounds and maintenance staff. The cost is $5 per rider. Departures are every 20 minutes from 4:20 p.m. until 7:40 p.m., weather permitting.

More than 20,000 visitors annually visit the park during the holiday season to visit Santa’s Trains, view the wonderland light displays, and share holiday dreams with Santa.

Commercial Real Estate Sections

Building Collaboration

The O’Connell Companies has a new home in Holyoke

The O’Connell Companies has a new home in Holyoke (above), replacing the previous headquarters (below) of more than a century.

The O’Connell Companies

The O’Connell Companies traces its history in Holyoke back to 1879, when Daniel O’Connell founded the construction company that eventually branched into property design, management, development, and much more. For more than a century, the company was housed in limited quarters on Hampden Street, but a new headquarters on Kelly Way offers more space, amenities, and opportunities for what one of the firm’s executives called “cross-fertilization.”

In the conference room where Andrew Crystal sat down with BusinessWest recently, the only piece of artwork currently hanging up is a stylized, brightly hued BIM (building information modeling) image of the new headquarters of the O’Connell Companies, located on Kelly Way in Holyoke. On the opposite wall hangs a cutting-edge, multi-screen array for both displaying information during meetings and videoconferencing with other parties.

The room’s long, wooden table, however, is one of the only pieces brought over from the former O’Connell HQ on Hampden Street. The restored table represents some of the connective fiber between old and new that the company wanted its new home to represent, said Crystal, vice president of O’Connell Development Group.

“We’ve managed to incorporate some history,” he said, also referencing a set of century-old, meticulously handwritten balance sheets framed on the wall of another wing, where the accountants work. “The company does have a very long, interesting story, so we tried to preserve some of the history and the culture of the company. That was very important in the design of this.”

Otherwise, the new headquarters, situated on a seven-acre parcel in the woods off Bobala Road, is rife with modern touches, starting with the striking central atrium that connects the wings that house various divisions — O’Connell Development Group, Daniel O’Connell’s Sons (construction), Appleton Corp. (property management), and New England Fertilizer Co. (biosolids management).

The atrium is awash in natural light and features tables and chairs toward the back, along with a kitchen and coffee bar. “We wanted to create some space for people to mingle informally, share a meal or coffee break together, with the intent of getting to know each other and, more important, cross-fertilize, because everything we do is related,” Crystal said. “We design, develop, finance, build, and manage buildings, roads, and bridges — it’s all interrelated for me.”

One of the goals of the new building is to bring together all the company’s divisions under one roof; Appleton previously had its own space on Suffolk Street in Holyoke, while the Hampden Street facility that housed the others had long been insufficient.

“It was an old, tired building, and we had looked at renovating it,” Crystal said. “But, to continue to be a great work environment for present employees, but also with an eye toward the future, it made sense to move to a new location and to have everything under one roof. There’s nothing like being in the same building.”

Dennis Fitzpatrick, president and CEO of the O’Connell Companies, said as much when he addressed hundreds of visitors at a recent open house, noting that it’s been more than a century since the firm dedicated a new headquarters.

Andrew Crystal

Andrew Crystal stands on the walkway overlooking the sunlit central atrium and the woods behind the property.

“When we started this project, our hope was that we could create a modern, contemporary office building where we could more effectively carry out our daily work,” he said. “We wanted improved functionality, a higher level of comfort, and we wanted a few more amenities. We hope that our new headquarters will cultivate a work environment that supports and further develops the spirit and cuture that has made this organization as successful as it has been for as long as it has been.”

For this month’s focus on commercial real estate, BusinessWest paid a visit to Kelly Way to check out the results of that effort.

Forward Thinking

The intent, Crystal said, was to house the company’s various divisions in a modern, energy-efficient, healthy environment. “We wanted to be conscientious about the environment in terms of energy efficiency and how we treated the land when we sited the building and took the trees down. And we wanted to preserve and enhance the corporate culture that exists here, which is why we created this atrium space in the middle of the building.”

He has heard of multiple incidents recently of long-time O’Connell employees meeting in person for the first time, which means the design is working.

“Part of the design is to create space and an environment that encourages people to collaborate and work together between companies,” he explained. “It was also done with an eye toward creating a great workplace for employees — not just the employees we have, but as an incentive to attract younger employees. Things like the atrium and a shared coffee bar, and a fitness room downstairs with showers — these are things that younger workers want, and it’s a competitive environment to attract talent.”

As for the subdued exterior of the building, Crystal said he had a specific vision for how the dark-bricked façade would interact with the woods around it.

“We wanted a brick building, but we wanted something that was more unique than red brick, that was an elegant blend with the surroundings,” he explained. “We went through quite a few designs, looking at various mixes of bricks. We’re very pleased with the result; whether it’s a bright, sunny day or an overcast, rainy day, the building really fits into the surrounding environment.”

The natural light that pours in from the building’s tall windows brings aesthetic appeal as well, but doubles as an energy-efficient element — one of many, he explained. “We chose not to get LEED-certified, but the criteria in LEED buildings drove a lot of the decisions around energy efficiency, water efficiency, quality of the air people breathe, and the views people have to the exterior.”

Dennis Fitzpatrick, addressing open-house attendees

Dennis Fitzpatrick, addressing open-house attendees, said it was “high time” O’Connell’s own home reflected some of the modern design elements it was using in its clients’ projects.

For instance, he continued, “all the light fixtures are LED, and all are on occupancy sensors. We have a high-efficiency boiler for heating, and we have energy-recovery ventilation, so when air is exhausted from the building, we recover some of the energy from the air and reuse it.”

Crystal added that the environmentally friendly focus extended to the outdoors, where the building was positioned in such a way that preserved the more mature trees around its perimeter. The plan is to develop some walking trails through the wooded surroundings by next summer. For now, a large outdoor patio overlooks the grounds behind the atrium. “So if you’re on your laptop on a beautiful day, why not sit outside with the beautiful woods and do your work?”

A freshly installed bocce court is another way to help employees enjoy the outdoors during the warmer months, he added. “Again, we want to encourage people to stay after work and recreate and get to know each other. One of our goals is to create a sense of community among employees.”

Daily Impact

In short, Crystal and his development team — which included architectural firm Amenta Emma and a host of contractors and subcontractors from Western Mass. — are firm believers that a building’s design and environment affect both productivity and employee behavior.

“One goal was to encourage collaboration, innovation, and cross-fertilization,” he said, referring not only to the shared atrium, but formal conference rooms in each wing and the open layout of each division, with offices ringing a shared bank of workstations. Each wing also features a small, private room with a phone for employees in the shared space to make private calls.

A color palette heavy on light grays and whites, with a bold splash of blue ringing some walls, was designed to promote brightness and productivity, and the rainbows that occasionally appear in the glass and white-ash floors when the sun hits the atrium’s huge rear windows is “one of those unanticipated surprises,” Crystal noted.

“People seem happy,” he said. “I think the employees are happy to be here. Having a fun, modern, efficient environment to work in is an important piece of that.”

As the company’s president, Fitzpatrick certainly understands the importance of keeping everyone happy.

“Part of our culture is our people working together to come up with creative, innovative solutions to the challenges and risks that our company faces in our daily business,” he told the crowd at the open house.

“At the O’Connell Companies, we all care very deeply about the details,” he went on. “We care about what happens when plane X meets plane Y. We care about quality, and we care a lot about the feel, the sense that you have when you’re in a building, and I wanted this building to represent that. I wanted it to reflect the kind of quality that we hold ourselves accountable for when we go out and develop, build, and manage an asset for someone else. It was high time that our home reflected some of the ones that we were building.”

As Crystal walked BusinessWest past what’s called the Founder’s Room — a formal conference space on the second floor with a black walnut table built by Jonah Zuckerman of City Joinery in Holyoke — he reflected again on how the company’s history in the Paper City impacts how it does business today, and how its new headquarters fits into that history going forward.

“The real value this company has is its intellectual capital,” he said. “Yes, we own real estate, and we own equipment, but what makes the company unique is its intellectual capital, and by locating all our employees in the same building and actively promoting interactions and collaboration, I think the company benefits. That’s what we hoped to accomplish by relocating.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College’s (STCC) dental hygiene program and the Valley District Dental Society will co-host the first Community Dental Day on Saturday, Dec. 9. The event provides an opportunity for area residents who might not be receiving any dental care to obtain free treatment and schedule follow-up visits.

The dental hygiene clinic in Building 20 at STCC will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Valley District Dental Society licensed dentists, together with STCC dental hygiene and assisting students, will offer patient education, health screenings, diagnosis, X-rays, and other types of urgent care.

“It will not be unlimited care, but there will be such treatment as fillings, extractions, sealants, and taking care of urgent issues,” said Dr. Martin Wohl, one of the dentists who supervises students treating patients at STCC. “We will not be providing cleanings, but in diagnosing that someone needs a cleaning, we will be able to schedule a follow-up visit. We will be able to put them into the system to get routine cleanings.”

While Community Dental Day will be free, patients can return to STCC for low-cost follow-up care. STCC’s dental hygiene clinic, which features 17 dental chairs on the second floor of Building 20, offers routine cleanings and various procedures at a reduced cost to residents of the Greater Springfield area.

“We’re excited about Community Dental Day, and the dentists are excited about it, too,” Wohl said. “The doctors feel they can provide a valuable service, and they can help people that generally can’t find the care they seek. Community Dental Day will hopefully have people start to think of either here or elsewhere as a dental home.”

STCC will welcome anyone who needs care that day, but Wohl recommends calling the dental hygiene clinic in advance at (413) 755-4900 to make an appointment for Community Dental Day.

Daily News

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN) released its latest edition of its Commonwealth Insights report series. The report, titled “From the Experts: Advice to Inform Your Organization’s Fundraising,” features advice from interviews with four successful Massachusetts nonprofit fund-raisers in an effort to inform and support year-end fund-raising efforts of nonprofit organizations.

In an early 2017 survey of its membership, nearly 60% of MNN member nonprofits cited fund-raising as the largest challenge facing their organization. With many nonprofits currently accelerating their fund-raising operations to coincide with the end of the calendar year, MNN believes this report will be useful to its over 700 nonprofit members representing every region of the state, as well as members of the state’s nonprofit sector at large.

“Fund-raising is an ever-present challenge — and opportunity — for all types of nonprofits. This edition of Commonwealth Insights focuses on ideas that can help nonprofits take their fund-raising to new heights,” said Jim Klocke, CEO of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network.

The report is centered on general strategies for fund-raisers to consider in their efforts and is supplemented with actionable advice. In a fast-paced and changing fund-raising landscape, all four experts agree that the need to consistently engage donors and provide them with new, creative ways to be involved with a nonprofit organization is critical to building and retaining support.

The report also touches upon a concern of those working in fund-raising, particularly at smaller organizations: that current events and overwhelming needs from across the country and world could further heighten the competition for donors’ support. The interviewed experts agreed that, while this concern is understandable, donors of all ages are looking for even more ways to support causes they care about.

“I think that many people are looking for more ways to make a difference, and I think that is what we need right now,” said Margaret Keller, executive director of Community Access to the Arts in Great Barrington, one of the experts featured in the report. “Donors are more engaged and more committed than ever.”

This is the third edition of Commonwealth Insights MNN has published in 2017. Earlier editions focused on federal tax reform and the Earned Income Tax Credit. The series is made possible by support from the Barr Foundation.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Comcast Business announced a new addition to its voice-solutions portfolio: VoiceEdge Select. Designed specifically for small businesses, VoiceEdge Select is a cloud-based phone service with a full set of standard and advanced calling features, a mobile app, and business-grade phones priced affordably by the seat.

Comcast Business’ VoiceEdge Select includes all of the traditional calling features small businesses expect but also includes, at no additional cost, advanced features such as automated attendant, hunt groups, simultaneous ring, and readable voice mail. Business-grade Panasonic phones are included with the cost of the service, and customers can select from cordless and desk phone options. The service is delivered over Comcast’s nationwide network.

“Small businesses are the heart of the American economy, and they need services that can help them better serve their customers and compete against larger brands. VoiceEdge Select gives them professional call handling and an easy-to-use portal and mobile application, letting them tailor the service to their needs to ensure they never miss a call in or out of the office,” said John Guillaume, vice president, Product Management & UX at Comcast Business.

Comcast’s technicians will provide installation and instruction for customers to get them up and running quickly. Businesses can keep their existing phone number, and with the mobile app, employees can receive and make calls from any device, including their desk phone, mobile phone, or home phone, using their business-caller ID. Because the service is in the cloud and managed through an intuitive online portal, upgrades and configuration changes can be made easily without requiring an IT staff.

“Services like VoiceEdge Select are leveling the playing field for small businesses by giving them access to capabilities similar to those of large enterprises,” said Diane Myers, senior research director, IHS Markit. “The advanced call features and inherent flexibility of VoiceEdge Select will be attractive to small businesses looking to gain a competitive advantage, easily scale alongside business needs, and better manage their infrastructure and costs.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — DevelopSpringfield was presented with a 2017 Massachusetts Historical Commission Historic Preservation Award by Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin at a ceremony on Nov. 2.

“The Massachusetts Historical Commission is proud to recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of this year’s awardees,” Galvin said. “The projects the commission is recognizing this year are particularly diverse and represent the many creative ways that significant historic resources are being preserved across the Commonwealth. With this project, the Merrick-Phelps House will now be an important contributor to Springfield’s economic future.”

Constructed in 1841, the Merrick-Phelps House, located at 83 Maple St., is one of Springfield’s most significant historic buildings. The house was built by Solymon Merrick, inventor of the monkey wrench and a key player in Springfield’s history of industry and innovation. The house was then sold in 1847 to Ansel Phelps, who later became the city’s mayor. Many residents still refer to this as the ‘Mayor’s House.’ After Phelps’s death in 1860, the building continued to house families of the Springfield elite well into the 20th century.

The Merrick-Phelps House, situated on the corner of Maple and Union streets, is a Greek Revival-style, two-story, single-family house featuring a low hipped roof and an elaborate, two-story portico with fluted Corinthian columns. A one-story porch on the Union Street elevation was added in 1890. The primary entrance on Maple Street is accentuated by a Greek Revival-style door surround and a pair of glass-and-wood-panel doors. The windows are all original wood windows. Notable interior features include a grand center hall with a curved staircase along the wall, a large parlor and dining room with decorative trim, and five original fireplace mantels.

Toward the end of the 20th century, the house began to show signs of neglect, and it was abandoned in 2007. When DevelopSpringfield purchased the house in 2013, it had been vacant for several years and was in an advanced state of deterioration.

DevelopSpringfield worked with a team of experts to assist in the successful rehabilitation of this historic property, including architect Marco Crescentini of Dietz & Co. Architects, general contractor Peter Hamm of Historic Preservation Associates, preservation specialist Gregory Farmer of Agricola Corp., preservation consultant William Young of Epsilon Associates, and Dennis Keefe of Westfield Bank (financing).

Daily News

PITTSFIELD — The Autism Collaborative of Berkshire County (ACBC) announced that state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and representatives from Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change (MFOFC) will speak at its November meeting on Friday, Nov. 17, slated for 10:15a.m. to noon at 2 South St., Suite 370, Pittsfield.

Farley-Bouvier will talk about her experiences in the world of disabilities and what’s on the horizon at the State House, while MFOFC will address ways individuals and families can empower themselves to advocate for change.

ACBC runs monthly community meetings to discuss autism and services available in the Berkshires. Each month features industry leaders who are able to speak to the state of services in the region. Service providers and caregivers for those on the autism spectrum are encouraged to attend, and all community members are welcome. The collaborative is sponsored by Autism Connections, AdLib, Hillcrest Educational Centers, the College Internship Program, and Berkshire County Arc.