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Co-op Power along with a number of local organizations have organized a Sustainability Summit in Springfield, MA on Saturday, December 8, 2018.

Co-op Power’s Annual Sustainability Summit is a great opportunity to share ideas with like-minded people on topics from green business development and community finance to grassroots activism and social justice.

We expect vibrant discussions about our society and our environment centered around our theme, “Energy Democracy”, with two keynote speakers and workshops throughout the day. If you are passionate about the environment and social justice then you have a place at the Summit to add to the excitement and expertise!

Highlights are two keynote presentations: Denise Fairchild, President of Emerald Cities Collaborative, who works to green our cities, build resilient local economies and ensure equity inclusion in both the process and outcomes of a new green and healthy economy. Sandra Steingraber — Biologist, author, and cancer survivor — speaks about climate change, ecology, and the links between human health and the environment.

Features include a tour of Wellspring Harvest, a quarter acre hydroponic greenhouse in Indian Orchard growing greens and herbs and information about Wellspring Cooperative a non-profit that is building a network of worker-owned co-ops to provide jobs and wealth building opportunities in Springfield’s underserved communities. Workshops will take place on worker co-ops and how they are key to the solidarity economy, a hands-on workshop on how to talk about our changing climate effectively, and a workshop on how communities can use the concept of “community energy aggregation” to secure energy efficiency and renewable energy generation services for everyone within their town.

The Sustainability Summit is being presented in collaboration with Springfield Climate Justice Coalition, Climate Action Now, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Wellspring Cooperative, ARISE for Social Justice, and The Energy Democracy National Tour 2018.

Co-op Power is a decentralized network of Community Energy Co-ops (CEC) organized to to build a multi-class, multi-racial movement for a sustainable and just energy future. It has raised $10M in tax equity to finance solar for non-profits and community solar projects across New York and New England. They have been awarded a competitive bid for 2MW of low-income community solar in NYC and and have an 8 MW pipeline of solar projects under development. In a time of climate crisis and economic disparity, this network of Community Energy Co-ops is making a difference.

Join us at TechSpring, 1350 Main Street, 5th Floor, Springfield, MA on Saturday, December 8, 2018 from 2:30-8:30 pm.

Registration is free. Donations are accepted to offset the cost of the meal.

For more information or to RSVP call 413-772-8898 or toll free 877-266-7543, or email [email protected]

Co-op Power along with a number of local organizations have organized a Sustainability Summit in Springfield, MA on Saturday, December 8, 2018.

Co-op Power’s Annual Sustainability Summit is a great opportunity to share ideas with like-minded people on topics from green business development and community finance to grassroots activism and social justice.

We expect vibrant discussions about our society and our environment centered around our theme, “Energy Democracy”, with two keynote speakers and workshops throughout the day. If you are passionate about the environment and social justice then you have a place at the Summit to add to the excitement and expertise!

Highlights are two keynote presentations: Denise Fairchild, President of Emerald Cities Collaborative, who works to green our cities, build resilient local economies and ensure equity inclusion in both the process and outcomes of a new green and healthy economy. Sandra Steingraber — Biologist, author, and cancer survivor — speaks about climate change, ecology, and the links between human health and the environment.

Features include a tour of Wellspring Harvest, a quarter acre hydroponic greenhouse in Indian Orchard growing greens and herbs and information about Wellspring Cooperative a non-profit that is building a network of worker-owned co-ops to provide jobs and wealth building opportunities in Springfield’s underserved communities. Workshops will take place on worker co-ops and how they are key to the solidarity economy, a hands-on workshop on how to talk about our changing climate effectively, and a workshop on how communities can use the concept of “community energy aggregation” to secure energy efficiency and renewable energy generation services for everyone within their town.

The Sustainability Summit is being presented in collaboration with Springfield Climate Justice Coalition, Climate Action Now, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Wellspring Cooperative, ARISE for Social Justice, and The Energy Democracy National Tour 2018.

Co-op Power is a decentralized network of Community Energy Co-ops (CEC) organized to to build a multi-class, multi-racial movement for a sustainable and just energy future. It has raised $10M in tax equity to finance solar for non-profits and community solar projects across New York and New England. They have been awarded a competitive bid for 2MW of low-income community solar in NYC and and have an 8 MW pipeline of solar projects under development. In a time of climate crisis and economic disparity, this network of Community Energy Co-ops is making a difference.

Join us at TechSpring, 1350 Main Street, 5th Floor, Springfield, MA on Saturday, December 8, 2018 from 2:30-8:30 pm.

Registration is free. Donations are accepted to offset the cost of the meal.

For more information or to RSVP call 413-772-8898 or toll free 877-266-7543, or email [email protected]

Company Notebook Departments

CHI Insurance Opens Downtown Springfield Office

SPRINGFIELD — CHI Insurance Agency Inc. announced the opening of an additional office location in downtown Springfield. The office, located at 1684 Main St., is the former Joseph Chernaik Insurance Agency. The Springfield location is the fourth CHI office, with other locations in Holyoke, Westfield, and South Hadley. Auto insurance will continue to be offered, and additional insurance products have been added and are available out of 1684 Main St. In addition to new staff and updated systems, customers now have the opportunity to purchase coverages for home, business, life, and specialty lines. All locations are bilingual and offer complete insurance products. CHI services clients throughout the Pioneer Valley with all of their insurance needs, and represents most major insurance carriers.

Griffin Staffing Network Announces Expansion, Rebrand to ManeHire

EAST LONGMEADOW — Griffin Staffing Network, a certified woman- and minority-owned business, has undergone a company rebrand to ManeHire and unveiled its new logo, tagline — “connecting great companies with great talent” — and website, manehire.com, to support its expansion from a local boutique staffing agency to a full-service regional staffing agency serving the Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Washington, D.C. markets. Since 2013, Griffin Staffing Network has served a wide-range of local and regional clients operating in industries such as healthcare, financial services, insurance, manufacturing, and nonprofit, filling roles from entry-level to C-suite and everything in between.

PeoplesBank Issues 2018 Corporate Green Report

HOLYOKE — PeoplesBank issued its 2018 annual Corporate Green Report in recognition of Earth Day 2018. During the past year, the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) of Massachusetts named PeoplesBank a winner of the Sustainable Business of the Year award. For the fourth year in a row, voters throughout Hampshire County named PeoplesBank the Best Local Green Business in the 2017 Daily Hampshire Gazette Readers’ Choice poll. The bank also continued a multi-year commitment of more than $65,000 in funding for green initiatives in Western Mass, and is a longtime leader in sustainable-energy financing. The bank boasts three LEED-certified branches in Northampton, West Springfield, and Springfield; and it has installed electric-vehicle charging stations at its Northampton, West Springfield, and Holyoke offices.

L&A Fine Men’s Shop Cuts Ribbon in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — L&A Fine Men’s Shop, located at 159 State St., Springfield, hosted a ribbon cutting and open house April 19. Audrin Desardouin and Lillian Ortiz, husband-and-wife co-owners, opened the store in December and have been investing in inventory and undergoing training to become an official minority-owned business. Desardouin came to the U.S. from Haiti when he was 21 years old. A U.S. citizen, he has lived in New England for the past 30-plus years. Ortiz, who was born in Connecticut, is Puerto Rican. She works at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester as vice president of Enrollment and Student Engagement and Community Connections. Desardouin owned a men’s clothing store in Norwich, Conn. for 15 years. The new shop is open Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Pioneer Valley Credit Union Awards Four Scholarships

SPRINGFIELD — Pioneer Valley Credit Union announced the recipients of its 2018 college scholarship program. Each year, PVCU selects four students to receive a $1,000 scholarship to help with college expenses; over the years, it has awarded $70,000 in all. The scholarships are named in honor of board of directors members who have dedicated their time and service to Pioneer Valley Credit Union and to the credit-union movement. Miya Walto of Smith Academy received the Maurice O’Shea Scholarship, John Fiester of Monson High School received the Richard Borden Memorial Scholarship, Janiya Dixon of Longmeadow High School received the Ignatius Collura Scholarship, and Fiona Cioch of Westfield High School received the Ted Klekotka Memorial Scholarship.

United Financial Bancorp Announces Q1 Earnings

HARTFORD — United Financial Bancorp Inc., the holding company for United Bank, announced results for the quarter ended March 31, 2018. The company reported net income of $15.8 million, or $0.31 per diluted share, for the quarter ended March 31, 2018, compared to net income for the linked quarter of $9.5 million, or $0.19 per diluted share. The company reported net income of $13.7 million, or $0.27 per diluted share, for the quarter ended March 31, 2017. Assets totaled $7.07 billion at March 31, 2018 and decreased $45.5 million, or 0.6%, from $7.11 billion at December 31, 2017. At March 31, 2018, total loans were $5.38 billion, representing an increase of $42.3 million, or 0.8%, from the linked quarter.

JA of Western Mass. Wins Grant from Wells Fargo

SPRINGFIELD — Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts announced it was awarded a $7,500 grant from Wells Fargo. Funding from Wells Fargo will support the Pathways to 21st Century Skills Project to provide students with the tools to develop the 21st-century skills needed to become autonomous employees. The project’s goals are to improve students’ knowledge of financial literacy in order for them to make sound financial judgments in the future, increase students’ entrepreneurial skills, increase students’ critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, and increase awareness of career and post-secondary education and career opportunities in Western Mass.

Fuss & O’Neill Opens Downtown Springfield Office

SPRINGFIELD — Engineering firm Fuss & O’Neill, which has locations throughout New England, recently held an open house at its new downtown Springfield office, 1550 Main St. The company’s move from its West Springfield office to downtown Springfield officially happened in January. “We are thrilled to be here in Springfield,” said Eric Bernardin, vice president at Fuss & O’Neill. “As an engineering firm, our job is to help create an environment that promotes and provides the groundwork for economic opportunity, civic involvement, and arts and entertainment. We are excited to be part of helping Springfield grow, and we look forward to the future.” The office space is owned by MassDevelopment, the public finance and economic-development authority of Massachussetts.

Smith Brothers Insurance Acquires Bailey Agencies

EASTHAMPTON — Smith Brothers Insurance, LLC has purchased the assets of Bailey Agencies Insurance of Groton, Conn. Owned and operated by the Scott family since 1980, Bailey has been a long-term fixture on the Connecticut shoreline. Bailey Agencies Insurance has moved to the Smith Brothers office in Niantic, Conn., at 377 Main St. With headquarters in Glastonbury, Conn., Smith Brothers has offices throughout Connecticut as well as Massachusetts — including a branch in Easthampton — and New Jersey. John Scott IV, former Bailey Agencies Insurance principal, will continue his role as commercial-lines producer and, along with two other insurance professionals, will work from Smith Brothers’ Niantic office.

Berkshire Bank Honored for Social Responsibility

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank announced that it received the 2017 Communitas Award for Leadership in Community Service & Corporate Social Responsibility. The Communitas Awards, administered by the Assoc. of Marketing and Communication Professionals, recognize businesses that give of themselves and their resources to their communities. The award recognized Berkshire Bank’s comprehensive corporate social-responsibility activities, including volunteer, philanthropy, and sustainability efforts, as well as responsiveness to community needs through products, services, and engagement activities. Annually, Berkshire Bank and the Berkshire Bank Foundation provide more than $2 million in financial contributions as well as scholarships to high-school seniors. In addition to financial support, the XTEAM, the bank’s employee volunteer program, provides employees with paid time off to volunteer during regular business hours.

Florence Bank Presents Customers’ Choice Grants

FLORENCE — Florence Bank recently presented $100,000 in awards ranging from $500 to $5,000 to 57 area nonprofits through its 16th annual Customers’ Choice Community Grants Program during an event at the Garden House at Look Memorial Park. The funds will support libraries, schools, police, fire departments, hospitals, hospices, and other organizations that benefit people of all ages, as well as animals and the environment. The bank reached the $1.05 million mark in terms of grants made over nearly two decades to 144 community nonprofits. The Customers’ Choice Community Grants Program is an annual offering founded in 2002, through which Florence Bank customers are invited to vote for their favorite local nonprofit in hopes it will receive a share of grant funding.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — PeoplesBank issued its 2018 annual Corporate Green Report in recognition of Earth Day 2018. Through its green values and actions to support environmental sustainability, PeoplesBank believes it can help make the region a healthier place to live, work, and raise a family, and puts these values to work throughout the year through its charitable donations and volunteerism. PeoplesBank is also recognized for its support of green-energy projects and its construction of LEED-certified offices.

“Our green values date back to when we helped Holyoke Gas & Electric replace hydroelectric generators years ago,” said Thomas Senecal, president and CEO of PeoplesBank. “That sustainable-energy source still provides electric power for four of our offices, including our headquarters in Holyoke.”

During the past year, the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) of Massachusetts named PeoplesBank a winner of the Sustainable Business of the Year award. For the fourth year in a row, voters throughout Hampshire County named PeoplesBank the Best Local Green Business in the 2017 Daily Hampshire Gazette Readers’ Choice poll.

The bank also continued a multi-year commitment of more than $65,000 in funding for green initiatives in Western Mass. Those initiatives include support for an existing mobile farmers market in Springfield and the launch of a new one in Holyoke, the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) Food for All campaign, the Center for EcoTechnology, Grow Food Northampton’s community garden, the Source to Sea Cleanup of the Connecticut River (support of this effort will also include hands-on participation by a team of volunteers from the bank), the Mount Holyoke Wetlands Restoration project, and scientific environmental education at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment.

PeoplesBank is also a longtime leader in sustainable-energy financing, and the bank’s commercial lenders are recognized for their expertise in creating financing packages for green-energy power generation. To date, the bank has financed more than $166 million in wind, solar, and hydroelectric power-generation projects, an increase of $40 million in just one year.

PeoplesBank also has a LEED Gold-certified office in Northampton, a LEED Gold-certified office in West Springfield, and a LEED Silver-certified office in Springfield. The LEED-certified office in Springfield, the first of its kind in the city, won a GreenSeal from the city of Springfield. PeoplesBank has also installed electric-vehicle charging stations at three offices, in Northampton, West Springfield, and Holyoke. In addition, the bank is a past winner of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts Sustainability Award, which recognizes excellence in environmental stewardship, promotion of social well-being, and contributions to economic prosperity.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — PeoplesBank issued its 2018 annual Corporate Green Report in recognition of Earth Day 2018. Through its green values and actions to support environmental sustainability, PeoplesBank believes it can help make the region a healthier place to live, work, and raise a family, and puts these values to work throughout the year through its charitable donations and volunteerism. PeoplesBank is also recognized for its support of green-energy projects and its construction of LEED-certified offices.

“Our green values date back to when we helped Holyoke Gas & Electric replace hydroelectric generators years ago,” said Thomas Senecal, president and CEO of PeoplesBank. “That sustainable-energy source still provides electric power for four of our offices, including our headquarters in Holyoke.”

During the past year, the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) of Massachusetts named PeoplesBank a winner of the Sustainable Business of the Year award. For the fourth year in a row, voters throughout Hampshire County named PeoplesBank the Best Local Green Business in the 2017 Daily Hampshire Gazette Readers’ Choice poll.

The bank also continued a multi-year commitment of more than $65,000 in funding for green initiatives in Western Mass. Those initiatives include support for an existing mobile farmers market in Springfield and the launch of a new one in Holyoke, the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) Food for All campaign, the Center for EcoTechnology, Grow Food Northampton’s community garden, the Source to Sea Cleanup of the Connecticut River (support of this effort will also include hands-on participation by a team of volunteers from the bank), the Mount Holyoke Wetlands Restoration project, and scientific environmental education at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment.

PeoplesBank is also a longtime leader in sustainable-energy financing, and the bank’s commercial lenders are recognized for their expertise in creating financing packages for green-energy power generation. To date, the bank has financed more than $166 million in wind, solar, and hydroelectric power-generation projects, an increase of $40 million in just one year.

PeoplesBank also has a LEED Gold-certified office in Northampton, a LEED Gold-certified office in West Springfield, and a LEED Silver-certified office in Springfield. The LEED-certified office in Springfield, the first of its kind in the city, won a GreenSeal from the city of Springfield. PeoplesBank has also installed electric-vehicle charging stations at three offices, in Northampton, West Springfield, and Holyoke. The bank is also a past winner of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts Sustainability Award, which recognizes excellence in environmental stewardship, promotion of social well-being, and contributions to economic prosperity.

In celebration of Earth Day, PeoplesBank will give away tomato plants and garden seeds to the public on Friday, April 20 from 9 to 11 a.m. at three locations: 300 King St. in Northampton, 1240 Sumner Ave. in Springfield, and 546 Memorial Ave. in West Springfield. PeoplesBank is also holding a free e-cycling event on Saturday, April 21 from 2 to 5 p.m. at its Hadley office, 5 South Maple St.

Sections Sports & Leisure

Challenge Cup

the PGA Junior League Golf program has helped swell the ranks

Chris Tallman, head pro at Cold Spring Country Club, says the PGA Junior League Golf program has helped swell the ranks on the local high-school golf team — and get more families involved in the game.

It was with discernable pride in his voice that Chris Tallman noted that there are 30 members on the Belchertown High School boys golf team.

He said that number slowly and with emphasis, as in 30! And with good reason. That is certainly a large number, especially for a comparatively small school, especially at a time when many larger institutions are struggling to field a team. But also because Tallman, head pro at Cold Spring Country Club in Belchertown, believes he probably had something to do with it.

More specifically, he believes his enthusiastic support of a youth program called the PGA Junior League Golf had something to do with it.

The national initiative, administered by the PGA of America, creates teams of young people at participating clubs that compete against one another. The goals are to have fun, learn the game, make some friends, and maybe get families involved in the sport, as well as young people.

And it seems to be working on all those levels.

“You have 70 to 80 juniors at each match, which is great to see,” Tallman explained. “But looking at the business side of things, if you get the juniors to the course, their parents are going to come, too, and they might get involved in the game.”

Such efforts to grow the sport are certainly necessary at this intriguing and somewhat precarious time for the game — and the business — of golf.

Indeed, those we talked with used a host of synonyms, but mostly ‘flat’ and ‘stagnant,’ to describe both business activity and interest in the game. In short, golf isn’t growing — in fact, it’s probably declining slightly — and many are outwardly skeptical about whether the younger generations will embrace the game with the same vigor as their predecessors.

Dave DiRico

Dave DiRico says young professionals comprise the fastest-growing segment of his business.

Tom Hantke, executive director of the Connecticut PGA, which covers most of Western Mass., used some different numbers to get some important points across.

He said there are roughly 24 million golfers out there, meaning people who are active and play the game regularly. And that number has remained at about the same level for some time now. Meanwhile, there are another 86 million who could — that’s could — perhaps join the core group, with some encouragement and attention.

A problem for the industry, said Hantke, is that many within it continue to focus their efforts on those 24 million in the core group, and not the other 86 million. He puts many club owners and managers in that category, as well as the equipment manufacturers, who continue to focus their energies on those who might buy a $500 driver, a $1,000 set of irons, and a $200 pair of golf shoes, rather than those who might be interested in a starter set or some used clubs.

“The industry gets it backward,” he said. “They’re targeting the 24 million core golfers, or whatever the number is in their respective market. And what they should be doing is marketing toward the 86 million, the ones who want to try the game or be part of the game or be entertained by the game.”

But amid the skepticism and heavy use of ‘flat’ and ‘stagnant’ to describe conditions within the industry, there are some positive signs.

Dave DiRico, owner, with his wife, Joann, of Dave DiRico’s Golf & Racquet in West Springfield, said ‘young people’ — a term he used to describe those in college and their first decade or two out of it — constitute the fastest-growing segment of his customer base. He said many of these individuals played sports in high school and maybe in college, they’re athletic, and they’re looking for a place to park that athleticism and spirit to compete.

And many are choosing golf.

“We’re seeing those people coming in more and more,” said DiRico, now in his sixth year with this venture. “The college kids, they’re buying used equipment to get into the game. And later, when they want to stay in the game, it’s those same people circling back to buy newer sets; the game has got them, and they’re going to continue to play.”

Meanwhile, a host of other initiatives — everything from a campaign to convince players to step up to the tees that suit their age and abilities, not the ones that suit their ego, to a set of proposed new rules changes — are aimed at making the game more fun, less confusing, less penal, and thus more popular.

The question lingering over the industry is whether all these efforts will make a difference at an age when many don’t seem to have the time or inclination for the game.

Since we’ve focused on numbers quite a bit, we might as well keep going and call that the $64,000 question. And for this issue and its focus on sports and leisure, BusinessWest  goes about getting some answers.

Round Numbers

Dave Fleury knew he was going to get some heavy flak from his male members. And he was right about that.

But he went ahead with his plan to award a popular, coveted night — Thursday — to a women’s league at Crestview Country Club in Agawam, which he owns, along with Elmcrest Country Club in East Longmeadow. And he’s never regretted that decision; in fact, he did the same at Elmcrest.

He told BusinessWest that, along with young people, women constitute the largest, most potential-laden, but also perhaps the most challenging component of that block of 86 million people who could embrace golf.

Like all the other constituencies, including men, they are challenged by the amount of time and money it takes to play golf, but also its complexity and thick, confusing rule book. What many women who take up the game seem to like about it are the social aspects, he went on, meaning the camaraderie and friendships that result.

Which brings us back to Thursday night.

I really applaud these efforts to change the rules. These are the kinds of things that need to happen to make the game more approachable for women, and for everyone, really.”

For many, that’s a social night, a night out, said Fleury, which is why he awarded it to this women’s league.

“Women really focus on the social side of the game,” he explained. “And for a long time, women’s leagues used to be on Monday afternoon, when the men aren’t playing anyway. We turned that on its ear, giving them Thursday night.

“We took flak for it, but you have to take a stance and make it clear that there’s no reason why women shouldn’t have the same accessibility, the same opportunity to go out and have a good time on a night that makes sense, like Thursday,” he went on. “So now, they come in for cocktails and food after the round and socialize like the men would. And as a result, they can see the game the way men see the game, and golf doesn’t become this drudgery.”

Fluery’s decision on what to do with Thursday night at his clubs is a good example of movement toward giving some thought and attention to those aforementioned 86 million potential golfers out there.

It’s a not a huge step, but an important one, he noted, adding quickly that it’s not going to generate tremendous or immediate improvement when it comes to the big picture. But it’s a step in the right direction, something the game and the industry need many of at this moment.

PGA Junior League Golf is another one, only those involved with it say it has the potential to become huge.

“It’s really cool — the kids have jerseys with numbers on them, so it’s similar to other team sports like soccer and basketball,” he explained. “We’ll play against other teams from other clubs; it’s a fun, laid-back format. There’s not a ton of pressure, the kids are competing against one another, and they’re having fun.”

And, as he noted earlier, the juniors’ parents, grandparents, and friends come out to watch them play, possibly inspiring more interest in the game.

“As a golf professional, my main job is to create more golfers, not just for my facility, but for the game of golf as a whole,” he went on. “And this program is helping clubs do just that.”

E.J. Altobello, head pro at Tekoa Country Club in Westfield, a public course, which hosts several teams, agreed, noting that participation has grown from just over a dozen young people in 2013 to more than 50 last year.
“I value it as one of the best programs they’ve probably ever rolled out,” he said. “It’s definitely piqued more interest in junior golf. The kids get involved, the parents get involved; it’s a good way to get families together on the golf course, just as you would in a Little League game.

“I think the program has gotten more kids in the game, and it’s gotten more families into the game,” he went on, adding that he can see results at his course and on area high-school golf teams. “We have parents now who probably wouldn’t have played ever if their kids hadn’t become involved.”

Green Business

But while the youth program is encouraging, Altobello has real concerns about whether the young people can stay with the game after they’ve graduated from college and the many pressures of life — work, family, and more — take hold.

“I don’t have any trouble getting college kids out here — we have a lot of them come down and play,” said Altobelli, noting that Westfield State University is only about two long par-5s away from Tekoa, and many students walk or even skateboard to the course. “But it’s after college — that’s when we lose them for a bit.

“There are tremendous time and money issues at that point that make it difficult for them to stay in it,” he went on. “But if we give them a good base when they’re juniors, and then increase their play when they’re in their early to mid-20s from two rounds a year to six rounds a year, that’s huge.”

There are many keys to getting young professionals — those in their 20s, 30s, and 40s — involved in golf, said those we spoke with. And they come at different levels, from the individual course to national and even international initiatives.

In that first category, said Fleury, courses have to tailor programs for that specific market. Private or semi-private models (the latter of which is used at both Crestview and Elmcrest) typically enable members to pay only for what they’re going to use, and nothing more.

“If they just want to play golf, they can just join the golf course,” he explained. “They don’t have to pay for the pool or the tennis courts, and we don’t have any food minimums; they just play for golf.”

Meanwhile, all courses can encourage nine-hole play, rather than 18 — a major consideration when everyone seems to be strapped for time and when a round plus lunch at the end absorbs five hours or more, said Fleury, and they can take steps, as he did, to accommodate women and enable them to enjoy the social aspects of the game.

On the national and international front, a broad campaign to convince players to choose the right tees — you might have seen Jack Nicklaus in those TV commercials encouraging people to “play it forward” — is designed to make golf more enjoyable, said DiRico.

“The game was meant to be fun,” he explained. “It’s not fun if you can’t reach many of the par-4s or struggle on the longer par-3s. By playing the right tees, people can relate better to the game they see on TV; they’re on in regulation more often, and they’re putting for more birdies. That makes the game enjoyable.”

And then, there are the rule changes. The U.S. Golf Assoc., working in a joint initiative with the R&A (the ruling body on the other side of the Atlantic), have proposed many of them, all with the twin goals of ‘modernizing’ the rules but also making them easier to understand and apply. The hope is that they also make the game less imposing and more fun.

Players will still have to play the ball as it lies, but there are changes regarding everything from play on the greens (one can leave the flagstick in the hole if they choose and repair spike marks) to taking relief (one could drop the ball from any height, not just from the shoulder, as currently prescribed).

“I really applaud these efforts to change the rules,” said Fleury, also a golf-course designer, who said these changes won’t impact the integrity of the game. “These are the kinds of things that need to happen to make the game more approachable for women, and for everyone, really.

“The game can be quite confusing and seem extremely penal, and sometimes unfairly so,” he went on. “A softening of some of these stringent rules and making them more understandable will help make the game less intimidating.”

Rough Guesses

While it may be some time before those owning and managing golf courses can use words other than ‘flat’ or ‘stagnant’ to describe things within their industry, there are some positive signs and many intriguing steps being taken to grow the game.

All one has to do is look at the Belchertown High boys golf team, for example.

But such efforts won’t change the picture overnight, as Fluery noted, and everyone in this business has to remain focused on both those core 24 million golfers and especially the many more who might take up the game with the right encouragement.

Like the game itself, this is a very stern challenge, but one with some significant rewards.

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

Restaurants Sections

Star Power

Andrew Mankin

Andrew Mankin, owner and brewer, says a ‘green’ operating philosophy has helped Barrington Brewery & Restaurant create a strong brand.

Andrew Mankin recalls that when he and business partner Gary Happ were crunching the numbers regarding their planned use of solar-heated water for their brew-pub establishment in Great Barrington, what they saw gave them reason to pause.

But not for very long.

“We decided that at some point you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is and do something,” he recalled, as he talked about the system they were contemplating — one that would coincide with, and be a key element in, the construction of a banquet facility that would complement their already well-established brewery and restaurant on busy Route 7. “When you’re putting up a new building, you’re spending a lot of money on all kinds of things, so we thought, ‘why not something that’s environmentally friendly?’”

That ‘something’ has turned out to be an investment that has paid off in a number of ways — from dramatically reducing natural-gas bills to giving Barrington Brewery & Restaurant a branding identity — ‘solar-brewed beer’ — that is not only earth-friendly, but helps generate business as well.

“People will come in, point to those words, and say, ‘what does this mean?’ said Mankin, who, as the company’s owner/brewer, is not only willing but well-equipped to explain it all. (Usually, the dissertation includes handing the individual one of the informative placemats the company uses that not only detail the solar hot-water use but explains the brewing process in five easy-to-follow steps.)

Co-owner Gary Happ with his daughter, Chelsea

Co-owner Gary Happ with his daughter, Chelsea, who is managing the operation’s banquet facility.

Overall, the sun-heated water gives many environmentally conscious individuals and families a reason to turn off Route 7 and into the large converted barns that comprise this operation. Or another reason, to be more precise.

And there must be several, said Happ, now a nearly 40-year veteran of the ultra-challenging hospitality industry, noting that, while the beers brewed at that location — labels that include Black Bear Stout, Hopland Pale Ale, Berkshire Blond, and Ice Glen IPA, along with a host of seasonal offerings — are a huge draw, there are hundreds of microbrews available in this region. In short, the food has to be good, too.

Barrington Brewery & Restaurant has that part of the equation covered with a menu, classified generally as ‘pub fare,’ that includes everything from barbecued ribs to shepherd’s pie to spinach and eggplant casserole.

To say this establishment effectively blends beer and food is not just idle talk, Happ noted. Indeed, those aforementioned brews are included in the recipes for menu items ranging from the chili to the blue cheese dressing to the famous (it’s been profiled in Bon Appetit a few times) chocolate stout cake.

“We try to keep everything simple, and we make everything here,” he explained. “It’s not a fancy, expensive menu, but it’s good, fresh food.”

The interior’s décor

The interior’s décor can be described with one word: beer.

As for that aforementioned banquet facility, named Crissey Farm, it has become a solid addition to the venture, said Mankin, noting that, in a region studded with venues at both the high and low end, this 200-seat room has become an attractive middle-of-the road option.

“We throw a very good wedding for a very fair price,” he explained, adding that the facility is drawing its share of other types of events as well, including corporate outings and meetings. “It’s an attractive alternative for people looking for something in the middle.”

For this issue and its annual Restaurant Guide, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at the Barrington Brewery and Restaurant, where the bright ideas include, but are certainly not limited to, the water-heating process.

Lager than Life

The sign

The sign that greets patrons says it all.

It doesn’t take much time, or many words, for that matter, to describe the décor and the mood at this establishment. ‘Beer’ will do just fine.

It’s brewed on the site, served on tap at the tavern portion of the eatery, sold in pint bottles (the partners distribute to a few other locations as well), explained on the placemats, and reflected on the walls — all of them.

There are pictures of old breweries, tavern signs from a long time ago — one declares that something called ‘white rose special’ costs 20 cents a bottle — and glasses, coasters, and trays bearing the names of brewers from the present, past, and distant past.

While referencing the huge display of coasters — Mankin has no idea how many there are on display or in storage because there’s no room left to display them — he pointed to a couple of his favorites: Dog & Parrott and Ridley’s Old Bob.

Those were brewed in England, which is where Mankin cut his teeth in this art and science. He was a self-described home brewer some 30 years ago, when he had a chance to learn from the masters at the Vaux Brewery in Sunderland in Northeast England, near the border with Scotland.

Upon returning home, his thoughts turned increasingly toward making beer a career, not a hobby. And when he met Happ, things started to come together.

Happ, then a partner in the hugely successful 20 Railroad Street restaurant in Great Barrington’s downtown, was selling his interest in that entity and eyeing a new entrepreneurial adventure. Mankin was looking for his first.

They decided to blend their resources and talents and opened Barrington Brewery & Restaurant on Route 7 in what’s known as the Jennifer House Complex, which featured antique shops and other forms of retail.

Over the past two decades, this venture has become a key component in a broad revitalization effort that has seen Great Barrington evolve from a sleepy Berkshires town “where the sidewalks were rolled up at 8 o’clock,” said Happ, to a true year-round destination.

The town’s rebirth has included everything from new shops and restaurants to the stunning $9 million renovation of the 111-year-old Mahaiwe (pronounced Muh-hay-we) Theatre. Now known as the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, it presents music, dance, theater, opera, talks, and movie classics (The Graduate is playing on May 21).

With this new vibrancy has come both opportunity and challenge in the form of greater competition, said Happ, adding that Barrington Brewery & Restaurant has thrived by drawing both local residents and the tourists that now come all 12 months of the year, and through creation of a niche with many elements.

Food (moderately priced) and beer are obvious ingredients, both figuratively and literally, he explained, but the ‘green’ factor is also a key part of the equation.

And there’s more to it the solar hot-water system, which, when installed, was the largest such facility in the region. Indeed, the venture buys its power from Pine Island Farm in Sheffield, a partnership dairy operation that boasts what’s known as an anaerobic digester facility, in which the methane from animal waste is converted into electricity and sold to National Grid.

“When we write a check for our energy at the end of the month, we don’t make it out to National Grid, we make it out to Pine Island Farm,” said Happ, with a strong dose of satisfaction and pride in his voice. “From the beginning, we’ve always tried to run a green business as best we could, and we’re continuing down that path.”

The next step, already on the drawing board and well into the development stage, is to create a photovoltaic system on a two-acre parcel the partners recently acquired and generate enough power to operate both the restaurant and Crissey Farm.

Unfortunately, the state has thrown a roadblock of sorts in front of what Happ called the “crown jewel of our greenness.” Apparently, there is a cap on photovoltaic systems of this type, and it has been reached, he went on, making it clear that this was a source of great frustration.

“Here are two guys trying to do the right thing, run a good, green business, and leave a small footprint, and who’s holding us up? The state,” he said with noticeable exasperation. “We’re ready to go.”

Crissey Farm

Crissey Farm, the banquet facility at Barrington Brewery & Restaurant, is making a name for itself.

Whether the state eases restrictions on solar-power systems and allows the partners to proceed remains to be seen, although both men believe this matter involves the question ‘when?’ and not ‘if?’

In the meantime, they will continue making beer with solar-heated water and press on with their efforts to grow the banquet side of the business.

Off to a solid start, 200-seat Crissey Farm, opened just as the Great Recession was starting in the summer of 2008, is creating a niche in its own right, said Mankin.

“We have a wedding booked every weekend right into October,” he explained. “Over the past few years, business has really picked up.

Icing on the Cake

Mankin told BusinessWest that Barrington Brewery isn’t shy about sharing the recipe for its famous chocolate stout cake. It’s already been published in Bon Appetit, he noted, and staff at the restaurant will hand patrons a copy if they ask for one.

This willingness to share trade secrets is somewhat rare in the restaurant business, he acknowledged, but the company isn’t worried about losing business from the practice.

“It’s not easy to make it — there’s a lot that goes into this,” he said, referring to the stout cake.

But those exact words could be used to describe the restaurant industry itself. The Barrington Brewery has succeeded by creating an effective niche — one that involves price, beer, food — and a green philosophy.

All that gives this establishment star power — in all kinds of ways.

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

Company Notebook Departments

MassMutual Reports Record $1.7 Billion Dividend Payout

SPRINGFIELD — MassMutual’s board of directors approved an estimated dividend payout of $1.7 billion for 2016 to its eligible participating policyowners — a nearly $100 million increase over 2015, and the fourth consecutive year it has reached a new record. The 2016 payout also reflects a competitive dividend interest rate of 7.1% for eligible participating life and annuity blocks of business, maintaining the same rate as both 2014 and 2015.  “Today is a special day where the commitment we’ve made our policyowners is brought to life through our annual dividend payout,” said Roger Crandall, MassMutual’s chairman, president, and CEO. “Through nearly our entire history, our policyowners have received an annual dividend regardless of what is happening in our world — whether it’s through world wars, pandemics, market crashes, and most recently, a historically low interest-rate environment where even three-month Treasury bills are yielding zero percent.” While dividends are not guaranteed, MassMutual has consistently paid them to eligible participating policyowners since the 1860s. The 2016 dividend marks nearly two decades that the company has consecutively announced an estimated dividend payout exceeding $1 billion. “As a mutual company, operating for the benefit of our policyowners and members, we are thrilled to share our collective and cooperative success,” Crandall said. “Our consistent payment of dividends is proof of the enduring financial strength and stability we provide, as well as the resiliency of our long-term strategy.” Among the key contributors to MassMutual’s dividend payout are its retirement-services and international insurance businesses, as well as its asset-management subsidiaries, such as Babson Capital Management LLC, Baring Asset Management Limited, Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers LLC, and OppenheimerFunds Inc. The estimated payout also occurs at a time when the company’s financial-strength ratings are among the highest in the industry and its total adjusted capital as of June 30, 2015 — a key indicator of overall financial stability — surpassed $17 billion for the first time in the company’s history. Of the estimated $1.7 billion dividend payout, an estimated $1.65 billion has been approved for eligible participating policyowners who have purchased whole life insurance. MassMutual had its ninth consecutive record year of growth in whole-life policy sales in 2014 with $418 million, and sales of whole life continue to be strong through the first three quarters of 2015. In addition to receiving the dividend payouts in cash, other ways whole-life insurance policyowners may use the dividends include paying premiums, buying additional insurance coverage, accumulating at interest, or repaying policy loans and policy-loan interest. “Whole life insurance enables people to plan for both the expected and unexpected events in their lives, whether it’s leaving a legacy for loved ones or using cash value to help fund a college education or fill an income gap in retirement,” said Michael Fanning, executive vice president and head of MassMutual’s U.S. Insurance Group. “We have provided millions of people with financial resources they can use to chart a course through these turbulent times, further proof that, whether bulls or bears are driving the market, policyowners have received their dividend payout from MassMutual.”

Bacon Wilson Selected Among U.S. News Ranking of Best Law Firms

SPRINGFIELD — Bacon Wilson announced the firm’s inclusion in the 2016 “Best Law Firms” rankings published by U.S. News – Best Lawyers. The full-service firm has been recognized with a Tier 1 Metropolitan designation for Springfield. Firms are selected for professional excellence, with tier rankings based on a meticulous assessment process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations as well as peer reviews from leading attorneys in their fields. Achieving a Tier 1 ranking indicates both quality law practice and expansive legal knowledge. This marks the sixth consecutive such honor for Bacon Wilson. Additionally, in August, four partners were named to the Best Lawyers in America 2016 list: Paul Rothschild, Stephen Krevalin, Michael Katz, and Jeff Fialky. Bacon Wilson’s managing partner, Stephen Krevalin, noted that the latest award is “among the most significant in our field. We are pleased and gratified to be counted among the 2016 Best Law Firms. For me, Bacon Wilson’s inclusion in this publication highlights the outstanding skills of our attorneys.” Bacon Wilson, P.C. is one of the largest firms in Western Massachusetts, with a total of 42 lawyers and approximately 60 paralegals, administrative assistants, and support staff. The firm’s main office is located in Springfield, with regional offices in Northampton, Amherst, and Westfield.

Holyoke Medical Center Breaks Ground on New ED, Office Building

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Medical Center (HMC) broke ground recently on construction for a new, state-of-the-art Emergency Department that, when completed, will expand the current space from 8,500 square feet to approximately 22,000 square feet, as wel as a new, 16,000-square-foot medical office building. The project is expected to be completed in spring 2017. The Emergency Department will feature a new Crisis Center for Psychiatric Services, 40 treatment areas, multi-patient trauma rooms, advanced life-saving equipment, and a patient-navigation service. This will allow HMC to treat patients in a more efficient and dignified way. The medical office building will house a host of new services, including a comprehensive weight-loss center, sleep-apnea clinic, and other multi-specialty physician practices. These expanded services will address the current and emerging community health needs of Hampden County, including the sharp rise in obesity and diabetes rates, while also creating new jobs in Holyoke. “Today’s groundbreaking represents our strong commitment to providing tens of thousands of patients in the Pioneer Valley with access to convenient and compassionate life-saving care,” said Spiros Hatiras, president and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center and Valley Health Systems Inc. “HMC’s new Emergency Department and medical office building will offer the latest in medical technology, a broader range of emergency services, and highly skilled clinicians dedicated to serving our community.” Funding for the project is provided partially by the Commonwealth’s Health Policy Commission (HPC), through Phase 2 of the Community Hospital Acceleration, Revitalization, and Transformation Investment Program, also known as CHART, which aims to promote care coordination, integration, and delivery transformation to enhance Massachusetts community hospitals’ delivery of efficient and effective care. The $3.9 million grant supports the integration of new behavioral-health services in the Emergency Department. “Our partnership with community hospitals is a critical part of HPC’s efforts to achieve the Commonwealth’s cost-containment and quality-improvement goals,” said David Seltz, executive director of HPC. “CHART hospitals were issued a challenge: propose initiatives that will put you on a path of transformation, while meeting the critical health care needs of your community. Today, I’m pleased to report that HMC exceeded that challenge. We look forward to continuing to partner with the Holyoke community to build a more coordinated and affordable healthcare system.” HMC’s award was the highest award for a single hospital in CHART Phase 2. HMC will leverage an innovative, multi-disciplinary high-risk-care team, known as the Behavioral Health Emergency Care Service, to support all patients with behavioral-health conditions in the Emergency Department. At the same time, this coordinated initiative will introduce robust care navigation in partnership with community-based organizations to ensure that patients receive targeted interventions, including those necessary to address the high incidence of complex, challenging social issues, and are referred to the right services for successful follow-through on individualized care plans. A portion of this investment will also support HMC’s efforts to redesign its Emergency Department, and will create a separate healing and therapeutic behavioral-health space in the emergency room designed to reduce patient anxiety, streamline patient flow, and improve overall quality of care in a safe and secure environment. Additional financing partners for the total project budget of $22.8 million include Valley Health Systems, MassDevelopment, People’s United Bank, JPMorgan Chase, and A.I. Wainwright. Last year, more than 42,500 patients visited Holyoke Medical Center’s Emergency Department, and the department will continue to serve the Greater Holyoke community throughout the construction phase of the project.

Country Bank Supports Local Senior Centers

WARE — Country Bank has been assisting local senior centers since 2011 with an annual donation of $2,000 each. This gift assists them with some of the expenses that may not be covered within their regular budget. A total of $166,000 has been donated over the last five years to local senior centers. “We have heard stories of our gifts helping to fund events such as veterans breakfasts, helping to put in a new floor, or, most recently, to assist with transportation costs to out-of-town medical appointments,” said Shelley Regin, senior vice president. “One director explained that many seniors may forgo important medical appointments due to the difficulties involved with public transportation or their fear of driving in unfamiliar areas such as Springfield. We are so pleased that we can help in this way.” Country Bank serves Central and Western Mass. with 15 offices.

HAPHousing Recognized as NeighborWorks Green Organization

SPRINGFIELD — HAPHousing has been recognized as a NeighborWorks Green Organization for its comprehensive commitment to sustainable operations. To achieve this designation, HAP was required to demonstrate adherence to a set of green business practices across its operations and all of its program areas.
This is the fourth consecutive year that NeighborWorks America has recognized member organizations for their efforts to create healthier, energy-efficient environments for homeowners, renters, community residents and employees. To date, 81 of the 240 organizations in the NeighborWorks network have achieved this designation. HAPHousing’s green initiatives and programs include ensuring that its housing developments and offices are energy efficient, and distribution of information on energy conservation to clients, residents, employees, and the public. According to Peter Gagliardi, President and CEO of HAPHousing, “An increasingly vital part of our work in developing affordable housing in the region is the building and maintaining of sustainable projects and practices that are environmentally friendly. We take this designation seriously and with pride in our mission to build healthy communities where people thrive.”

STCC to Offer Certified Fiber Optics Technician Courses starting Dec. 7

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) Workforce Development office will offer three Certified Fiber Optics Technician Courses starting Dec. 7.
The courses will cover a variety of topics for both those new to the field and experienced technicians. The Fiber Optic Training class combines theory and hands-on activities to prepare students to take the Certified Fiber Optic Technician exam sanctioned by the Fiber Optics Association. The exam is administered and graded during the final class.
Students will learn how to identify fiber types; recognize various connectors used in fiber installation; and install, terminate, splice, and properly test installed fiber cable to existing standards. The program explores the history and future of fiber optics and fiber optics capabilities, and basic testing and troubleshooting.
Anyone interested in becoming a Certified Fiber Optics Technician is highly encouraged to sign up. The course fee includes study materials and text book, a CD, exam fees, plus a one year membership to Fiber Optics Association. In addition, STCC will offer Certified Fiber Optic Specialist Outside Plant (CFOS/O), Certified Fiber Optics Splicing Specialist Course (CFOS/S) and Certified Fiber Optics Specialist in Testing & Maintenance (CFOS/T).

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — HAPHousing has been recognized as a NeighborWorks Green Organization for its comprehensive commitment to sustainable operations. To achieve this designation, HAP was required to demonstrate adherence to a set of green business practices across its operations and all of its program areas.

This is the fourth consecutive year that NeighborWorks America has recognized member organizations for their efforts to create healthier, energy-efficient environments for homeowners, renters, community residents and employees. To date, 81 of the 240 organizations in the NeighborWorks network have achieved this designation.

HAPHousing’s green initiatives and programs include ensuring that its housing developments and offices are energy efficient, and distribution of information on energy conservation to clients, residents, employees, and the public.

According to Peter Gagliardi, President and CEO of HAPHousing, “An increasingly vital part of our work in developing affordable housing in the region is the building and maintaining of sustainable projects and practices that are environmentally friendly. We take this designation seriously and with pride in our mission to build healthy communities where people thrive.”

“HAPHousing is helping to improve people’s health and well-being,” said NeighborWorks America CEO Paul Weech. “The organization is showing how green business practices make economic sense.”

NeighborWorks America creates opportunities for people to live in affordable homes, improve their lives and strengthen their communities. For more information on the green designation, and to see the complete list of designees, go to NeighborWorks.org/Green.

Daily News

WESTFIELD — A Plus HVAC of Westfield is one of nine New England-based contractors to receive a 2015 COOL SMART award. The firm, led by owner and President Nathan LeMay, has received this honor for three consecutive years.

The honors were presented recently at the annual golf tournament of the Air Conditioning Assoc. of New England. Sponsored by the Massachusetts/Rhode Island COOL SMART program, the awards are given out during the sporting event held in Stow. The winning contractors specialize in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning and are recognized for quality installation of energy-saving equipment and their overall contributions to the program.

COOL SMART is a high-efficiency heating and cooling rebate program for residential customers of National Grid, Eversource, Unitil, and the Cape Light Compact. These program administrators sponsor the awards and the tournament to recognize contractors in Massachusetts and Rhode Island for outstanding service and an ongoing commitment to energy efficiency. Launched in 2004, COOL SMART promotes the purchase and installation of Energy Star-qualified and high-efficiency air conditioners, heat pumps, and water heaters. Awards are distributed annually to recognize outstanding contractors for leadership, quality work, and active program participation.

“For the past decade, we have witnessed more and more contractors participating in COOL SMART,” said Kevin Parse, Unitil program coordinator. “This program is important to public health because greenhouse-gas emissions and pollution are reduced by up to 30% as a result of their outstanding work. On behalf of Eversource, we are proud to be affiliated with the program and its committed contractors throughout the region. We applaud A Plus HVAC for its third consecutive win and hope to see even more participants next year.”

To learn more about becoming a COOL SMART contractor, or for general program information, visit www.masssave.com or call (800) 473-1105.

Opinion

Editorial

Stephen Zrike admitted he had a limited base of knowledge about Holyoke before he arrived in July as the state-appointed receiver for the city’s beleaguered school system with the challenging assignment of orchestrating a turnaround.

Most of what he did know was gleaned from relatives of his wife, who grew up in the city, attended its schools, and achieved success in their careers. The basic messages that they conveyed consisted of enormous pride in their city — something people born and raised in the city are well-known for — as well as dismay over the current state of affairs and general uncertainty about what went wrong and how to fix the problems.

This enormous pride helps explain why Holyoke strongly resisted a state takeover of its schools. Only two other cities had suffered such a fate — Chelsea and Lawrence — and it’s certainly not something a community wants on its résumé, for a number of reasons.

But, as we wrote several months ago, this takeover will likely ultimately become a very positive development for this manufacturing center that is now, like many of the other so-called gateway cities, struggling to find a new identity.

That’s because it takes many factors coming together to restore a once-proud city to prominence, and an effective school system is at the very top of that list.

Other factors are important as well. These include a willingness to live and start a business in that community, getting a hold on crime and making residents feel safe, new job opportunities, and that intangible known as hope.

But before you can have most, if not all, of the above, you need quality schools that are graduating workforce-ready individuals.

Holyoke is making progress on many fronts. For example, it was recently included on Popular Mechanics’ list of the “14 Best Startup Cities in America,” an acknowledgement that it has, for lack of a better word, a solid infrastructure for new businesses, meaning available and affordable real estate, comparatively low taxes, and officials in City Hall who are cooperative.

The city is also building its economy through the arts, technology, and green business, with two of those realms coming together in the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center.

And some pride is being restored as well, with more business owners and homeowners looking Holyoke’s way, instead of the other way, or any other way.

But the city won’t achieve a full and effective recovery if its schools continue to lag, with some of the lowest, if not the lowest, rates for high-school graduation and third-grade reading proficiency in the Commonwealth.

Unless or until Holyoke’s schools improve those rates, it will be difficult to attract new families and new businesses, and therefore it will be an extreme challenge to script the kind of turnaround that Chelsea, Lowell, and other cities have achieved.

In his interview with BusinessWest, Zrike said orchestrating a turnaround of Holyoke’s schools will not happen quickly or easily. Achieving that feat that will require time, dedication, creativity, and the full power of a receiver to slice through bureaucracy and politics and therefore accelerate the process.

He says it will only happen through leadership — not just from his office, but in every one of Holyoke’s 11 school buildings. And he’s right about that.

We sincerely hope that leadership can be found, because a sound school system is one of the big pieces of the puzzle missing in Holyoke, and until improvement is achieved, the turnaround picture will not be complete.

Green Business Sections
Hadley-based Venture Has Big Plans for ‘Small Wind’

Patrick Quinlan, left, and Bill Stein

Patrick Quinlan, left, and Bill Stein, with an HR-3 model wind turbine outside their Hadley facility.

When Patrick Quinlan and Bill Stein went about the task of assigning a name to the company they started in 2012 to design, build, and service small wind turbines, they quickly settled on ‘Black Island.’

That phrase may not mean much to most people — Quinlan joked that many who hear it think it has something to do with pirates — but it does resonate with those who know their geography. Or their wind power.

Black Island, so named because of a distinct lack of snow — there is also a White Island nearby that obviously has some — is in the Ross Archipelago in Antarctica. It is home to a major U.S. telecommunications center, and is among the most climatologically inhospitable places in the world.

The official population is zero, and for good reason — actually, several reasons. The island is often visited by category-5 hurricane winds exceeding 150 mph, temperatures regularly dip south of 40 below zero, and the island is in absolute darkness for almost half the year.

For nearly three decades now, the facility there — America’s South Pole communications link to the world — has been powered in part by several of the so-called HR-3 (3-kilowatt) series of small wind turbines built by a Vermont-based company called Northwind Power Co, later renamed Northern Power Systems.

It was this product that Quinlan and Stein were recruited to essentially reintroduce to the market — Northern exited this stage in favor of ‘big wind’ products several years ago — by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). This was an entrepreneurial challenge they accepted, in part because they were both unemployed at the time, but also because they’ve been working in wind power throughout their careers and saw vast potential for products that fall in the category of what the industry calls ‘small wind.’

These would be units rated at under 10 kilowatts, said Quinlan as he spoke with BusinessWest in the company’s R&D facility in the ironically named Propeller Building on River Drive in Hadley. And there is growing demand for such products among commercial, industrial, and even residential users, he noted, adding that a study conducted by Navigant Research revealed that the market for small wind turbines will double to $3.3 billion annually by 2018.

An installation crew

An installation crew is seen with one of the HR-3 models in operation on Black Island in Antarctica.

There will likely be many competitors for that growing pie, but Black Island, which also plans to develop a 1-kilowatt version of the HR (high-reliability) product, will be well-positioned, he noted, steering the conversation back to Antarctica and the brand name chosen for this venture. That remote location has become a proving ground of the highest magnitude for the HR series of products, he said, adding that the company uses a photo of an installation on that South Pole outpost, along with the slogan “Toughest Wind Turbines on the Planet,” in its marketing materials.

And while there aren’t many, if any, other places like Black Island, reliability, in general, has been an issue with small wind turbines, said Stein, adding that the Black Island product distinguishes itself in this regard due largely to a spring-damper system called VARCS (variable-angle rotor-control system), which enables the turbine to handle high winds by pitching the rotor upward into a helicopter position when winds are strong.

“The demonstrated survivability of our H-3 wind turbine is exemplary, and uniquely distinguishes our design,” he said, adding this competitive advantage is important because demand for such turbines will be great in areas where competitively priced solar power is not practical — like Antarctica and other places that don’t get much year-round sun.

The current business plan calls for the company to build a small number of 3-kilowatt wind turbines in the Hadley facility — it has already filled a few orders from the U.S. Air Force — and eventually scale up production of those units, most likely in conjunction with Greenfield-based Applied Dynamics, while also introducing the 1-kilowatt unit capable of powering a home or small business.

“We’re leveraging the great reputation of the HR series to build a very solid, practical wind turbine that we think will be attractive to everybody, because small wind does not have a great reputation for reliability otherwise,” said Quinlan. “And there are so many great applications for small wind.”

For this issue and its focus on green business, BusinessWest examines an emerging local company that is looking to make a powerful statement in an intriguing and potential-laden industry.


Turns for the Better

Quinlan told BusinessWest that naming a wind-turbine company Black Island is similar in many ways to a carmaker naming one of its products after a racetrack where it has enjoyed great success — and that has happened many times over the years, with the Dodge Daytona, Chrysler Sebring, and Pontiac LeMans, among others, coming to mind.

That’s how powerful a statement he believes the brand name makes, and how much it resonates with the company’s audience.

“Among the people who purchase small wind turbines, they know about the Black Island facility and respect what’s happened there,” he said. “In many instances, people have called them legendary wind turbines because they’re so anomalous in their reliability.”

Quinlan and Stein have been telling the Black Island story repeatedly over the past few years as they’ve taken their venture off the drawing board and into reality and worked to differentiate themselves from what they call “commodity small wind turbines.” For example, there was the presentation given before the Mass. Clean Energy Center (MCEC), which eventually gave the partners a $150,000 grant to help get the planned 1-kilowatt unit off the ground.

In addition to lessons learned in the climate of Antarctica, Quinlan and Stein told the MCEC — as they have other groups and BusinessWest — that, when it comes to small wind turbines, there is a lot of “junk” out there.

“In short, small wind turbines are disappointing customers,” Quinlan explained. “There is a strong need for a cost-effective, reliable, and productive alternative that is dependable.”

All those words could be used to describe the original HR-3, he went on, adding that the product had made a name for itself in Antarctica and other remote locations, so much so that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory launched a search for a company that would service existing models and create what amounts to the next generation of the product.

It focused its efforts on Stein and Quinlan, two veterans of what could be the called the wind-power movement, who are now partnering with Lawrence Mott, an engineer on the originally built HR-3, on the Black Island venture

Quinlan is the former associate director of the UMass Wind Energy Center and has been involved with wind power for more than 30 years. He worked at Southern California Edison and AeroVironment Inc. on wind-turbine testing and in-field troubleshooting, and worked with individual electric cooperatives and municipal utilities across the West on wind-power projects. In Washington, he served as a renewable-energy expert as a Congressional fellow, working for the ranking member of the House Science Committee, and then as ASME White House technology fellow supporting the presidential science advisor at the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Stein, meanwhile, is a former senior research fellow at the UMass Wind Energy Center who also began work in the field in the early ’80s.

He started building wind turbines at Clark University, worked at Natural Power Inc., a wind-instrumentation company, and started his own wind-power company, Astral Wilcon, a manufacturer of 8- and 15-kilowatt residential-sized wind turbines. He worked briefly at MIT’s Fusion Energy Laboratory and at Yankee Environmental Systems, where he developed meteorology instrumentation.

With $180,000 in funding from the NREL, the partners eventually set up shop in Hadley and contracted with the agency to design and then test a modified HR-3 at Texas A&M University’s Alternative Energy Institute. During those tests, the turbine ran flawlessly, said Quinlan, adding that, since then, the company has produced a handful of the units and sold two to the Air Force.

It hopes to secure more orders at the Small Wind Conference in Stevens Point, Wis. later this month, he went on, adding that the partners project sales of perhaps 20 units this year.

The company also sells new and refurbished parts  for the roughly 100 legacy HR-3 units still operating around world, mostly in remote locations such as mountaintop installations and offshore oil rigs, said Quinlan, adding that this component of the business provides a steady cash flow that makes the venture less of a business risk.

Looking forward, the partners are optimistic about scaling up production of the HR-3. Quinlan projects sales of the $39,000 turbines possibly reaching 100 units by next year.

“We’re targeting organizations that highly value reliability,” he said, adding that failures in the field can be extremely expensive and disruptive because getting service is so difficult and time-consuming. “This includes government agencies that have telecommunications networks, telecom companies that have microwave towers, oil and gas companies, and microgrids — small, self-contained utilities.”

Meanwhile, climate change may create business opportunities in another of the world’s most remote outposts — the Arctic, he explained.

“The Arctic will soon be navigable,” he told BusinessWest. “And there’s a lot of interest in setting up telecommunications systems there to support ship traffic, and that could create opportunities for us.”

The partners are also optimistic about development of the 1-kilowatt model now on the drawing board, with a prototype expected soon.

That product will compete with solar and other options for the business of those willing and able to use renewable energy to power their homes and businesses, said Stein, adding that, while solar has become an attractive option now that the price tag for such installations has come down in recent years, there is, and will continue to be, decent demand for wind power.

That’s because there are some places where solar is not a viable option, and where wind is, because it’s plentiful, said Quinlan.

“We’re looking at the windy states — the whole center of the country and the coasts,” he said, adding that preliminary projections forecast first-year sales of perhaps 1,000 units, and 5,000 annually within a few years.

Demand may be bolstered by growing need among businesses, government operations, schools, and other facilities to continue operating after a weather disaster or power outage, he went on, adding that small wind can provide that capability.


Gust in Time

When Quinlan and Stein were asked if they’ve been to Antarctica to see their product in action, they both enthusiastically said ‘no,’ although Stein admitted that it might be fun to go there — “for a few days, maybe, and at the right time of year.”

There are no plans for such an excursion, or to visit any of the other remote locations where the company’s turbines are in operation or will soon be put to use.

“We know what these units can do — we don’t need to go to the South Pole,” said Quinlan, adding that pictures from such outposts will suffice.

But Black Island will always be a big part of this company. As Quinlan said, it has been a proving ground, and because of that it is now a brand name — one that is expected to do big things in the world of small wind. n


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

Company Notebook Departments

VizConnect Opens Headquarters in Springfield
SPRINGFIELD —  Mobile marketing technology and communications firm VizConnect Inc. recently announced the opening of its headquarters in Springfield, and the official launch of its North American operations. Recently named one of the five top technology start-ups to watch by the Boston Business Journal (June 4, 2013), VizConnect was founded in 2011 by a team of partners, including 20-year media veteran and Associated Press and Emmy award winning on-air personality Edward Carroll. VizConnect is a video-management service that will allow businesses of all sizes to easily incorporate high-definition video into print advertising and their existing social media. Businesses of all size can use VizConnect’s platform to easily leverage the power of video and a call-to-action screen to market their products and services while also interacting and engaging their target customers. “We’re thrilled to call Springfield our home,” said Carroll of the decision to keep the business in Western Mass. “We could have launched this effort from Cambridge or even Los Angeles, but it’s important to us to be part of building this community that has been so instrumental in our development.” The team of founding partners includes Paul Cooleen, president of VizConnect, a former bond trader with deep ties to Wall Street; Jim Henderson, chief information officer, chief counsel and Boston-based attorney; and Brian Dee, director of Business Development. With subscribers located around the country, VizConnect currently serves a diverse group of businesses in a wide variety of industries, including real estate, restaurants, automobile sales, sports franchises and general contracting vendors. VizConnect also counts several non-profit organizations as customers. VizConnect’s online tools are sold through a network marketing structure, further offering immense opportunities to business people interested in building their own companies. The company offers its distributors — independent business associates — an opportunity to sell and distribute this web-based program as the foundation for their own independent businesses.

Big Y Debuts Solar Array
SPRINGFIELD — Big Y Foods Inc. recently announced the completion of its new solar array at 151 Cottage St. at its Store Support Center in Springfield. This new array spreads across three acres and includes 2,178 solar panels with a 643kw DC array. Annual electrical production yield is expected to be 750,000 kilowatt hours, which will offset the company’s electrical consumption by 15% or 1 ½ months at Big Y’s corporate offices and distribution center. Real Goods Solar Energy, Western Mass Electric Company, and local contractors such as Cotton Tree Service and L&D Construction, installed the panels over the past five months. Employees and visitors can view the array’s electrical generation via a monitor in the company’s café. It is Big Y’s third solar installation in Massachusetts; at the Big Y World Class Markets in Lee and Franklin, rooftop solar arrays have been helping to offset electrical consumption since June 2012. An opening event was staged June 27 at Big Y’s headquarters, at which state and local representatives helped inaugurate the new panels. State Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard Sullivan, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Center for Eco-Technology executive director John Majercak and their Green Business Services director Lorenzo Macaluso shared the podium in recognition of Big Y. The company has long been recognized as a leader in innovative energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. In collaboration with the Center for EcoTechnology (CET), a non-profit environmental organization that helps businesses improve environmental performance, Big Y began diverting food waste from landfills across the state. It began diverting food waste from disposal in the mid 1990s and today, all 61 stores recycle cardboard, paper and film plastics. More than 80% of its Massachusetts markets utilize active composting programs. In 2011, Big Y diverted more than 16,000 tons of materials from landfills. Last year, Big Y was recognized by the state for its significant accomplishments. In addition, it passed the 80% certification rate statewide to earn regulatory relief from the MassDEP Waste Ban Enforcement and earned Supermarket Recycling Program Certification. Big Y is also an inaugural participant in EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge. Other renewable-energy solutions implemented by Big Y include full building- management systems in each store to control lighting, refrigeration, and other HVAC units to insure optimal performance. This system also reduces lighting and temperatures at nighttime when the stores are closed. Other initiatives include the installation of glass doors in all dairy and frozen food cases along with electronically commutated motors to lower energy consumption. Variable speed drives on rooftop air handling units and cooking exhaust hoods, advanced refrigeration systems with reduced refrigerant charges, rooftop dehumidification units, and highly energy efficient case motors all contribute to reducing Big Y’s energy footprint. Additionally, LED lighting with occupancy sensors, pull down covers for open multideck cases and efficient lighting design continue to help the chain save over 800,000 kwh per year in energy consumption. Before the installation of their new solar array, these savings are equivalent to 1283 barrels of oil, 61,844 gallons of gasoline or 108 cars being taken off of the road. Big Y is also one of the first retailers to install electric-car-charging stations, which are currently active at four of their Massachusetts  locations — Northampton, Lee, Franklin, and Walpole.  Customers can conveniently use the chargers for free while they shop. Since installation, 482 cars have charged more than 461 hours saving more than 1,879 (kg) of greenhouse  gases and 223 gallons of gasoline. According to Gary Kuchyt, Big Y’s manager of energy and sustainability, “Saving resources is important to us as a company — not only is it good business, but it’s simply the right thing to do. I am proud to say that Big Y has been committed to conserving energy and reducing waste for over 40 years.”

ESB to Receive ‘Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve’ Award
EASTHAMPTON —  Easthampton Savings Bank announced that on July 9, it will receive the ‘Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve” award. The presentation will take place at the bank’s main office at 36 Main St. in Easthampton. The nomination was made by Darci Furr, assistant manager at the bank’s Westfield Office. Furr is a master sergeant in the Mass. Air National Guard, and has been deployed to Saudi Arabia from 2001 to 2002, and to Qatar in 2005 and 2010. Furr, whose current unit of assignment is the Force Support Squadron, 104th Fighter Wing, Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, has served for 15 years. In her nomination Furr called Easthampton Savings Bank a “pillar of the Pioneer Valley business community, that is fully deserving of recognition due to exceptional support of military service members.” She talked about the Veteran’s Day drives that the bank has done for the past six years to collect items from employees to send to a military unit who has a member with a direct relationship to the bank. Furr also talked about her personal experience with the bank’s support of military service members. She commented that during the entire 15 years as an employee of ESB and as a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard her managers have been very accommodating to her military duty needs; including last-minute scheduling changes, extended temporary duty periods, and monthly drill weekends.  In addition, the bank voluntarily provides a pay differential for service members whose military salaries are less than that of their bank income. Furr also commented that her direct supervisor also took the time to keep in touch with Furr’s husband, who remained state side. She also added that the bank’s culture is a direct reflection of the leadership and caring guidance of Bill Hogan, the long-time president and CEO of ESB; a former Guardsman himself. Furr concluded her nomination by saying “ESB is a model employer in many ways, not the least of which is its exceptional support of military service members. Selection for the Above and Beyond Award would recognize ESB publicly for something I have known for my 15 years of employment there.”

Polish National Credit Union pledges $50,000 for new Chicopee Senior Center
CHICOPEE — In a check presentation ceremony recently at The Polish National Credit Union’s Main Street, Chicopee headquarters, PNCU pledged the second of two $25,000 donations to support the construction of the new Chicopee Senior Center on Main Street. PNCU previously donated $25,000 in 2012 for the Senior Center. PNCU President and CEO James P. Kelly made the presentation to Richard J. Kos and Ernest N. Laflamme, Jr., co-chairs of the senior center fund raising committee, and Marie Laflamme, a member of the capital campaign. “This is an effort that goes right to the heart of what the Polish National Credit Union is all about,” said Kelly. “These are our members, and this is our community, and we’re proud to be a part of it.”

Nejaime’s Wine Cellar Unveils Renovated Stores in Lenox, Stockbridge
LENOX/ STOCKBRIDGE — Nejaime’s Wine Cellars recently completed extensive expansion-and-remodeling projects at its Lenox and Stockbridge locations. Owner Joe Nejaime said ongoing grand reopenings are an opportunity for patrons to see and taste new selections the stores can now offer. “Our goal in both stores was to create a brighter and more spacious shopping experience,” he said. “The Lenox store has expanded by approximately 1,900 square feet, nearly doubling its size, and the Stockbridge store has been remodeled and rearranged to make better use of the space.” Both stores received new deli cases, freezers, and flooring, and the Lenox location will also benefit from a rehabbed parking lot. Nejaime noted that the stores’ selection of picnic items and accessories — popular among Tanglewood attendees — have been expanded as a result, as have their beer selection, high-end wines, fine whiskey, prepared foods, and specialty groceries including cheese, crackers, gluten-free items, gourmet chocolates, cookies, and other snacks, as well as gifts and accessories.

Green Business Sections
Gold Circuit E-Cycling Carves Out a Unique Niche

Matt Pronovost

Matt Pronovost says the mission at Gold Circuit E-Cycling is controlled growth.

Matt Pronovost calls it his “museum wall.”
It’s little more than a few wooden shelves in the back of the room cluttered with what could only be described as electronic artifacts, especially if you’re under age 40. There are a few 8-track players in the mix, two movie projectors, a ’60s-era console television (a model that sat on the living room floor), a turntable, an old Atari system, several beta camcorders and transistor radios, and maybe a half-dozen rotary telephones of various colors and shapes.
And then, there are the computers, most with brand names and model numbers that achieved fame (or infamy) but disappeared from the landscape decades ago. A Commodore 64 sits between a Digital UT102 and a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model III microcomputer. All three probably came out of the box 30 years ago, and they certainly look their age.
Pronovost said it takes something really unique to make the wall these days — like the old washboard and basin that came in a few weeks ago — partly due to the fact that he’s just about out of display space. But it’s mostly because he’d rather devote his time to the 99.9% of the stuff that comes in his door that he doesn’t even think about keeping.
This is what Gold Circuit E-Cycling is really all about.
This bin of circuit boards

This bin of circuit boards is one of many crowding the floor at Gold Circuit E-Cycling.

It’s a three-year old enterprise devoted to the recycling of computers and electronic equipment, an intriguing and fast-growing venture now occupying roughly half of one of the dozens of buildings comprising the sprawling Ludlow Mills complex. And it would seem to be the right business in the right place at the right time.
Indeed, as technology advances at a rate so rapid that it seems like a 40-inch flatscreen TV or five-year-old PC might soon be candidates for the museum wall (and there are more than a few of both on the floor waiting to be dismantled and recycled), area business owners and residents are increasingly challenged by the question of what to do with yesterday’s electronics as they acquire tomorrow’s products.
And Gold Circuit was created to provide an answer.
“Increasingly, people are realizing that there’s a solution to their problem, and it’s not the garbage can,” said Pronovost, adding that the business of e-cycling, as it’s called, is not exactly new, but it is picking up steam in the Northeast after migrating from the West Coast (as many trends do) a decade or so ago. “We’re here to help people make the responsible choice when it comes to unwanted electronic equipment.”
This venture, which recorded 25% growth in its first full year in business and will likely double its volume this year, collects or ‘demanufactures’ computers, electronics, batteries, home appliances, lawn equipment, metal furniture, copiers, printers, medical equipment, power tools, tires, fluorescent bulbs, styrofoam, pellet-fuel bags, and more, and sells the parts and material for scrap, thus keeping such items out of the waste stream.
There are charges for some products that are dropped off at the facility — anything with glass or refrigerant, for example, and tires as well — but many items can simply be left free of charge. And the company is making it even easier by staging collection events, such as one held recently at East Longmeadow High School.
Several dozen pieces of equipment arrive at the Gold Circuit facility each day, meaning the company is already essentially at full capacity in a 15,000-square-foot location it moved into just last year after outgrowing its original, 6,000-square-foot home in the Ludlow Mills complex.
When, how, and where the company next expands is a critical question, said Pronovost, adding that at present, the goal — and the challenge — is controlled, smart growth.
“I don’t want to grow too fast because expenses can really take off if you’re not careful,” he explained. “Like any business, we have to stay within ourselves and expand in a smart way.”
For this issue and its focus on green business, we look at a company that is certainly larger than the sum of all those parts amassed on the Gold Circuit floor.

Here’s the Breakdown
As he gave BusinessWest a tour of his facility, Pronovost stopped briefly at the museum wall — he tried, unsuccessfully, to find a date on that washboard — but quickly moved on to several large cardboard boxes, each destined for a vendor that would recycle the material in question and/or extricate the more valuable materials from them.
There was one for clean (as in unpainted) aluminum, a material that will fetch 65 cents a pound, he said, and another for ribbon wire, most of it from PCs. Three boxes contained low-grade, medium-grade, and high-grade circuit boards, respectively, designations that indicate that amount of gold in each one. And there were others for everything from transformers (separated by size) to plastic (one for lighter colors and one for black).
Meanwhile, there was a huge box filled with Styrofoam that was used to keep many of these products safe in their boxes. Sold by the bale, this material has a number of potential future uses, said Pronovost, especially as a composite material used in everything from furniture to picture frames.
How he came to be an expert on the future lives of such materials — and to create a business focused on e-cycling — is an intriguing story based on the most basic principles of entrepreneurship: seeing a need and creating a service to meet it.
“To be honest, I pretty much fell into this,” he explained, while retracing a career that started with work supporting those using computers, not breaking them down into component parts.
He started in what he called the “desktop-support field,” working at MassMutual for a few years before moving to a firm in Connecticut where he handled hardware setup and configuration work, as well as equipment auditing. As that company was repeatedly sold to larger corporations, with each transaction accompanied by a change in equipment, Pronovost segued into resale of the old hardware and, eventually, into selling parts and material for scrap, an operation carried out in-house.
“I had the right background to distinguish whether the parts I was looking at had value outside of scrap — whether they could be wholesaled out or brokered out, whether we tear it down or not tear it down,” he noted, adding that he quickly moved up the ranks within this division. “I made the transition from technician into sales, and was doing well with generating revenue.”
However, the Great Recession changed the equation quickly, he went on, adding that he was one of many to be laid off and forced to settle on a new career path. His was entrepreneurship.
“I decided to do it myself,” he said, with the ‘it’ being e-cycling. “I could see that there was a lot of opportunity, especially here in Western Mass.”
Elaborating, he said that there were, and still are, national outfits that would work with large corporations, such as MassMutual and Aetna, to help them scrap electronic equipment, but such operations historically haven’t had much interest in small businesses or residents. Meanwhile, some communities had collection operations (most of them pricey) at their transfer stations, he went on, but there was a definite void in service to large portions of the local market, and this was the need he set out to address with Gold Circuit.
He opened the doors in October 2010 and started small, handling the bulk of the work, including most of the demanufacturing, himself. Growth, he noted, has come through awareness — of both his company’s services and the need to seek out earth-friendly ways of dealing with yesterday’s electronic devices.

Hard-driving Entrepreneur

Employees at Gold Circuit

Employees at Gold Circuit ‘demanufacture’ a wide array of computers and electronics, with parts and materials sold as scrap.

Using an old laptop as an example, Pronovost said there is a good deal of scrap value in such devices, and his company has become adept at squeezing every cent from them.
“The screen, if it’s unbroken, can be torn down and reused,” he told BusinessWest. “The main [circuit] board probably has the most scrap value in that laptop, but the hard drive comes out to be shredded, and there’s a lithium battery — and right now, lithium is one of those commodities that’s sought after. Everything has scrap value.”
On the day BusinessWest visited the operation, there were several dozen old laptops awaiting their fate. A few of them might actually be sold to resellers if they are in very good condition, said Pronovost, as will the various pieces of equipment — computers, printers, VCRs, phones, air conditioners, toaster ovens, and more — crammed into the 20 or so large boxes on the shop floor.
This is a busy time of year — good weather inspires people to clean out their homes and businesses, apparently — and the floor is crowded with “inventory,” he went on, adding that Gold Circuit currently has several days worth of devices to demanufacture, and more comes in every day.
Pronovost has tweaked his original business plan slightly, but for the most part, the document’s projections for volume, or weight (400,000 pounds of material in 2012), revenue, growth, and employment have been on the money.
They were based on a number of factors, but mostly the incredibly fast pace of progress with computers, cell phones, and other electronic equipment, and the market for used items — or the lack thereof, as the case may be.
Indeed, he said that PCs more than seven years old, and some much younger than that, have little value other than as scrap when their owners decide to upgrade. And the same is largely true for today’s televisions.
“The older ones, those 20 or 25 years old, are still working,” said Pronovost with a laugh. “The newer HD models … they don’t work. And when they break, you generally have to replace them.”
This phenomenon is one of the many factors contributing to the company’s impressive growth rate, he continued, adding that others include everything from a lack of competition locally to strong word-of-mouth referrals, to heightened efforts in recent years to market the company.
But much of it comes down to partnerships, or working with a host of constituencies, from individual communities to area colleges and universities, to encourage responsible disposal of unwanted electronic items.
When the town of Longmeadow opened its new high school, Gold Circuit took roughly 12,000 pounds of old computers and other electronic equipment from the old one free of charge, said Pronovost, adding that another example of such partnership-building was the recent collection drive at Holyoke Community College to benefit a scholarship fund at the school. Participants paid a small fee to organizers to have everything from an old cell phone to a garage-cluttering air conditioner hauled away by Gold Circuit.
Such events are win-win-wins, said Pronovost, noting that the scholarship fund grows, the planet benefits because such items don’t wind up in area landfills, and Gold Circuit gains some invaluable exposure.
Looking ahead, he said the company, which now has four full-time employees, and several part-timers, will continue its efforts to chart steady but controlled growth.

Parting Thoughts
Pronovost said his museum wall often generates interest and conversation.
“People will say, ‘holy smokes, a Commodore 64 — I had one of those back in…,’ and they start adding up in the years,” he said, adding quickly that, while nostalgia is fine, it’s not what this business is all about.
Instead, it’s about meeting a growing need among area businesses and communities, and a desire to do the right thing when it comes to disposing of old equipment, styrofoam, and more.
“People are learning … they’re understanding that you can’t just throw things like this away,” he said, sweeping his hand across the shop floor. “And we’ve become an answer to their problem.”

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

Chamber Corners Departments

ACCGS
www.myonlinechamber.com
(413) 787-1555

• April 24: Join us for the chamber’s annual Beacon Hill Summit, hosted by state Sen. Gale Candaras, starting at 7 a.m. Join with other members of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield Inc. and the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce for a unique opportunity to hear directly from top legislators and members of the Patrick-Murray administration and an opportunity to voice your opinions, ideas, and concerns during the day’s formal sessions and social events. Speakers will include: Secretary of Administration and Finance Glen Shor, Senate President Therese Murray, Stephen Brewer, chair of the Senate and Joint Committees on Ways and Means, Mass. Taxpayers Foundation President Mike Widmer, and many others. The all-inclusive payment includes continental breakfast, transportation, and lunch at the Omni Parker House with members of the local delegation, a wrap-up reception at the 21st Amendment, and all materials. Buses depart at 7 a.m. from the Plantation Inn at Exit 6-off the MA Turnpike, and return at 7 p.m.
• May 1: [email protected], 7:30-9 a.m., at the Delaney House, One Country Club Road, Holyoke. Mayor’s Forum. The monthly [email protected] series pays tribute to individuals, businesses, and organizations for major contributions to civic and economic growth and for actions that reflect honor on the region. To reserve tickets, contact Cecile Larose at [email protected]

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

• April 24: Chamber After 5, 5-7 p.m., at the UMass Fine Arts Center. Sponsored by: Yankee Candle. Tickets are $10 for members, $15 for non-members. RSVP to [email protected]
• April 30: ‘Making Green Sexy’ — Chamber Brown Bag luncheon, noon-1:30 p.m., in the Woodbury Room of the Jones Library at Amherst College. The program, focused on green marketing/green business profitability, will be presented by Shel Horowitz, president of Accurate Writing and More. Using examples as diverse as toilet paper, the Empire State Building, ice cream, and a community organizing campaign, Horowitz’s presentation will look at the different message styles you need to move both green and non-green audiences to action. For more information, visit http://greenandprofitable.com/.

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

• May 15: Salute Breakfast, 7:15-9 a.m., at Elms College, 291 Springfield St. in Chicopee. To reserve tickets, contact the chamber at (413) 594-2101 or [email protected]
• May 22: Business After Hours, 5-7 p.m., at Berkshire Bank, 1339 Memorial Dr. in Chicopee. For more information, contact the chamber at (413) 594-2101 or [email protected]

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

• April 25: Networking by Night Business Card Exchange, 5-7 p.m., at the new Easthampton High School, 70 Williston Ave. Tour and experience this new 21st century educational facility. Sponsored by Canon Real Estate Inc., Hors d’ouevres by the E.H.S. Culinary Department; door prizes. Tickets are $5 for members, $15 for future members
• May 9: Networking by Night Business Card Exchange, 5-7 p.m., at Amy’s Place Bar & Grill, 80-82 Cottage St., Easthampton. Sponsored by Easthampton Savings Bank; hors d’ouevres; door prizes; cash bar. Tickets are $5 for members, $15 for future members.
• May 17: Wine & Microbrew Tasting,  6- 9 p.m., at Wyckoff Country Club, 233 Easthampton Road, Holyoke. Enjoy more than 50 wines and microbrews, fine food, and an extraordinary raffle. Major Sponsor: Easthampton Savings Bank; Event Sponsor: Five Star Building Corp.; Wine Sponsor: Westfield Spirit Shop; Microbrew Sponsor: Big E’s Supermarket; Food Sponsor: Log Rolling @ The Log Cabin/Delaney House. Tickets are $35 in advance, $40 at door. Call (413) 527-9414, or visit or www.easthamptonchamber.org.

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

• May 10: Ask a Chamber Expert Series: Hiring the Right Talent, 8:30- 10 a.m., at the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce Conference Room, 177 High St. Join us for our second ACE (Ask a Chamber Expert) event with guest speaker Peter Brunault, senior professional in Human Resources (SPHR) of Employers Association of the NorthEast. Admission: $10 for members, $25 for non-members. Price includes a continental breakfast. Call the chamber at (413) 534-3376 to sign up or register at holyokechamber.com.
• May 15: Legislative Luncheon featuring State Treasurer Steven Grossman, starting at 11:30, at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House, 500 Easthampton Road. Sponsored by Dowd Insurance and Goss & McLain Insurance. Admission: payment in advance, $30; payment at door, $40. Open to the public. For reservations call the chamber office at (413) 534-3376, or register online at holyokechamber.com.
• May 20: 45th Annual Chamber Cup 2013 Golf Tournament, at Wyckoff Country Club, 233 Easthampton Road, Holyoke. Registration and lunch at 10:30 a.m. Tee off at noon (scramble format); dinner following the golf with elaborate food stations catered by the Log Cabin. Cost is $125 per player, and includes lunch, 18 holes of golf, cart, and dinner. Dinner only, $25. Winner awards, raffles, and cash prizes follow dinner. Tournament Sponsors: Log Cabin and PeoplesBank. Corporate Sponsors: Dowd Insurance, Goss & McLain Insurance Agency, Holyoke Gas & Electric, Mountain View Landscapes, Holyoke Medical Center, People’s United Bank, and Resnic, Beauregard, Waite & Driscoll. For reservations call the chamber office at (413) 534-3376 or register online at holyokechamber.com.
• May 21: Chamber Business Connections, 5-7 p.m. Sponsored and hosted by Sovereign Consulting, 4 Open Square Way, Suite 307. If you are in the architecture, engineering, or development industries, attend as the chamber’s guest, Cost is $10 for chamber members, $15 for non-members.
Presented by the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors Committee. Join your friends and colleagues for this informal evening of networking.
• May 29: Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting, starting at 5 p.m. at the Delaney House in Holyoke. Program followed by a grand reception, including Fifield Awards. Sponsored by the Greater Holyoke Chamber Corporate Leaders. Cocktails from 5 to 5:30 p.m.; annual meeting at 5:30 p.m. Dinner begins at 6. Admission: payment in advance, $30; payment at door, $40. Open to the public. The chamber will also honor chamber member retirees, Rosalie Deane, Holyoke Housing Authority; David Dupont, superintendent of Holyoke Public Schools; and John Kelley, Peoples United Bank.

MASSACHUSETTS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
(413) 525-2506

• July 22: Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament at Tekoa Country Club, Westfield. Shotgun start at 11 a.m. Cost: $100 per golfer.
For more information on registration and sponsorship opportunities, contact the chamber office at (413) 525-2506, or e-mail to [email protected]

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

• May 1: Northampton Chamber Monthly Arrive @5, 5-7 p.m., at the Eric Carle Museum, 125 West Bay Road, Amherst. Arrive when you can, stay as long as you can. A casual mix and mingle with your colleagues and friends.  Sponsored by: Wells Fargo Advisors, Johnson & Hill Staffing Services, and United Bank. Admission: $10 for members; $15 for non-members

PROFESSSIONAL WOMENS CHAMBER
www.professionalwomenschamber.com
(413) 755-1310

• June 6: Women of the Year Banquet, 5:30-8 p.m., at the Cedars Banquet Hall, 375 Island Pond Road, Springfield. Join us as we honor our Woman of the Year, Jean Deliso, Deliso Financial & Insurance Services To reserve tickets, contact Cecile Larose at [email protected]

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

• April 25: Powerful Speed Networking Business After Hours with 3 Chambers, 5-7 p.m., at Chez Josef in Agawam. Featuring the West of the River Chamber of Commerce, Westfield Chamber of Commerce , and North Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce. Free for chamber members, $10 for non-members. (Event is open to the public; must pay at the door if you’re a non-member). For more information contact the chamber office at (413) 426-3880, or e-mail to [email protected]
• May 1: West of the River Chamber of Commerce Membership Drive, at the
Holiday Inn, Enfield, Conn. Two shifts — 9-11:30 a.m. and 1:30-4 p.m. This is a great opportunity for you to network with other members while helping to grow your chamber. More members means more opportunity to grow your business. For more information contact the chamber office at (413) 426-3880, or e-mail to [email protected]
• May 1: Wicked Wednesday, 5-7 p.m. Hosted by Holiday Inn.
Free for chamber members, $10 for Non-members (event is open to the public-must pay at the door if you’re a non-member). Wicked Wednesdays are monthly social events hosted by various businesses and restaurants. These events bring members and non-members together to social network in a laid-back atmosphere. For more information contact the chamber office at (413) 426-3880, or e-mail to [email protected]
• August 19: West of the River Chamber of Commerce 10th Annual Golf Tournament at Springfield Country Club, West Springfield. Cost: $125 per-golfer. For more information on registration and sponsorship opportunities, contact the chamber office at (413) 426-3880, or e-mail to [email protected]

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

• May 6: Mayor’s Coffee Hour, 8- 9 a.m., at the Holiday Inn Express, 39 Southampton Road, Westfield, MA 01085. Join the chamber and Mayor Dan Knapik for a meet-and-greet about the city. Free and open to the public. To register, call Pam at the chamber office at (413) 568-1618, or e-mail to [email protected]
n May 8: May WestNet Connection, 5- 7 p.m., at Amelia Park Children’s Museum, 29 South Broad St. Sponsor: Westfield YMCA. Cost: Members, $10, non-members, $15cash at the door. To register, call Pam at the chamber office at (413) 568-1618, or e-mail to [email protected]
n May 13: Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce’s 52nd Annual Golf Tournament, at the The Ranch Golf Club, 65 Sunnyside Road, Southwick.
Schedule: 10 a.m., registration/lunch; 11 a.m., shotgun start; 11 a.m.-5 p.m., on-course refreshments; 4 p.m., cocktail hour; 5 p.m., dinner Great Sponsorship opportunities still available. Cost: foursome with dinner, $600; tee sign, $150; dinner only, $35. For sponsorship opportunities, to register or to donate a raffle, contact Pam at the Chamber office at (413) 568-1618, or e-mail to [email protected]

YPS-Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield
www.springfieldyps.com

• May 16: May ‘Third Thursday,’ 5-7 p.m. at Lattitude Restaurant, 1338 Memorial Ave., West Springfield.

40 Under 40
Nominations Are Now Open for the 40 Under Forty Class of 2013


Since BusinessWest launched its 40 Under Forty program in 2007, we have recognized 240 young professionals who have made their mark across Western Mass. — not only for their career success, but their commitment to their communities. Several winners who later made the transition to judge — last year, that meant poring over a thick stack of almost 120 nominations — say that dual perspective gives them an even greater appreciation for the depth and breadth of talent that continues to make 40 Under Forty a coveted badge of distinction in this region.

Five years ago, Hector Toledo was chosen for an exclusive fraternity in Western Mass. — the BusinessWest 40 Under Forty.

Three years later, he relived the experience from the other side, when he was asked to be one of the judges selecting the class of 2011.

“It was pretty difficult,” said Toledo, vice president and retail sales director at Hampden Bank. “So many of them had multiple nominations, and it was tough, not having been through the process before, to get a sense of what was exceptional and what was ordinary.”

Fortunately, he said, the ‘exceptional’ side was well-represented. He was especially struck by the quality of very young talent in the region — those honorees who are nowhere close to pushing 40. Indeed, while many winners over the past six years had been in the professional world for a decade or more, some were just starting out when BusinessWest came calling.

For instance, in 2008, Toledo’s fellow honorees included both 20-year-old Brendan Ciecko, president of Ten Minute Media; and 21-year-old Delcie Bean, president of Valley Computer Works, now known as Paragus Strategic IT. Perhaps more strikingly, in 2011, the year Toledo served as a judge, the class included 16-year-old Stephen Freyman, whose volume of community service sets a high bar for other high-school students to match.

“That was fascinating to see,” Toledo said of the region’s youth movement. “This area is just so full of high-quality young individuals, it gives you a lot of hope for Western Mass.”

Each year’s nominations — typically well over 100 — are carefully examined by an independent panel of judges. Over the years, several of those have come from the ranks of former winners, like Toledo.

Jaimye Hebert, an honoree in 2011 and a judge last year, said she looked for nominees with a strong work-life balance.

“That was the biggest thing — someone with success in their career, maybe raising a family, but also contributing to their community on top of that,” said Hebert, vice president at Monson Savings Bank.

She noted that she was impressed by people equally committed to where they live and work — “for example, somebody who lives in Belchertown and works in Springfield, and they’re not just involved in Springfield because they work there, but also involved in the town where they live.

“I’m also big on helping children, community sports, things like that,” said Hebert, who counts coaching soccer among the many ways she stays invested in others. “I think it was really apparent, looking at the nominations, which people are really putting themselves out there, which is fantastic.”

 

We Are Young

The 40 Under Forty program was launched in 2007 as a way to spotlight the accomplishments of younger professionals throughout Western Mass. — not only their on-the-job achievements, but their often-extensive volunteer work with organizations that benefit their communities.

There were many motivations for creating the program, said BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien, listing everything from a desire to identify rising stars to encouraging individuals to get involved in the community and, in short, do the things needed to become a 40 Under Forty winner. And while the bar was set high, expectations have been exceeded, he said, noting that there was a record number of nominations last year, and the annual June gala to salute winners has been sold out well in advance for the past several years.

“In six short years, 40 Under Forty has become a brand, as well as a goal for many young people in the business community, nonprofit sector, and public-service realm,” said O’Brien. “It’s become a benchmark, if you will, a symbol of excellence that, above all, identifies someone as a leader.”

Over the years, the program has highlighted individuals from a wide range of businesses and industries, including nonprofits. In addition, a healthy number of honorees each year are true entrepreneurs, individuals who have taken risks, developed their own business plans, and built companies that in turn create jobs.

Fairly ranking each nominee was a challenge, Hebert said, but one she welcomed.

“I did a three-part process,” she explained. “The first night, I read everything — every single page. The second night, I scored them all. Then, on the third night, I rescored them to make sure the scores were consistent. I know how important it is to a lot of people. It’s an overwhelming honor and a distinguishing mark people want on their résumé. So I took it very seriously.”

Toledo took his time as well. “I had to go through a few times to make sure everyone got a fair shake,” he recalled, noting that he’d be impressed by an entry, then would have to go back and adjust his scale when he saw the “extraordinary” work of nominees further down the pile.

Toledo said community service was a very important factor in judging nominees. “I was really impressed with some of the individuals who were doing things before work, after work, on the weekends … spending time doing things they were passionate about, that often have little or nothing to do with their jobs.”

Toledo’s own involvement in the community — he serves on multiple boards and committees — was noted when he was honored in 2008, and he’s gratified to see that so many young professionals share the same enthusiasm.

“I do a good amount of nonprofit activities, some work-related and some that’s important to me on a personal level,” he told BusinessWest. “That means a lot to me, so it’s good to see so many people giving up their private time, their family time, to help out in the community.”

Michael Vann, a 2007 honoree who judged nominations for the class of 2011, said he built a spreadsheet to rank nominees according to the criteria that mattered most to him, including leadership and entrepreneurship.

By taking a completely objective approach, Vann,  president and CEO of the Vann Group, was surprised when some nominees he was familiar with — and that he assumed would rank high — were surpassed in his ratings by others he was just learning about. “I didn’t play favorites,” he noted.

 

Set the World on Fire

Although he enjoyed his experience as an honoree six years ago, “I actually enjoyed being a judge even more,” Vann said, comparing it to being asked to be a baseball Hall of Fame voter.

Indeed, others who have transitioned from winner to judge say they took on the challenge partly because they’re proud of their association with the region’s most prestigious award for young professionals.

Hebert is especially gratified that not many financial-services professionals were chosen for her 40 Under Forty class in 2011, a year when, instead, many individuals from the nonprofit sector were chosen. Indeed, the makeup of each class is very different, but there’s usually at least some representation from fields including education, law, finance, media, medicine, creative arts, nonprofits, government, retail, restaurants, and green business, among others.

“We definitely have an abundance of talent, and we have a great network of people coming up in this area, who have chosen to stay here and really contribute to this region as a whole,” she added. “That’s huge; not every region in the country has that, so we’re fortunate here.”

As with the past six installments of 40 Under Forty, this year’s winners — chosen, again, by a judging panel of area business leaders and previous honorees — will be profiled in the April 22 issue of BusinessWest (always a must-read edition) and toasted at the annual gala reception on June 20.

The nomination form can be found HERE. It will appear in upcoming issues as well. The deadline for entries is Feb. 15.

 

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Education Sections
The Many Flavors of the Region’s MBA Programs

In an ever-more-competitive career marketplace, educational degrees don’t always carry the weight they used to.
“At the turn of the 20th century, if a person had a high-school education, that was fantastic,” said Kathryn Carlson Heler, director of the MBA (master of Business Administration) program at Springfield College. “Remember, most people finished eighth grade and were out working at age 14.”
In the years following World War II, she explained, the G.I. Bill and other factors boosted college attendance, and a bachelor’s degree became the ticket to a secure career. But, in many cases, that’s not enough anymore.
“Most professionals now are saying, ‘hey, what’s the next step?’ And I think the master’s has become an important step — and who knows if it’s going to go further?” she said. “Look at nurses, for example; most of them have bachelor’s degrees, and some hospitals prefer to hire people with their master’s. And in the business world, the MBA has become the degree to have.”
Others who spoke with BusinessWest agree. “The MBA does carry an awful lot of weight in the workplace,” said Tom Barron, director of the MBA program at American International College. “It can affect opportunities for promotion, raises, and the like.
“The MBA allows you to really look at other aspects of a business, not just your own area of expertise,” he further explained. “You end up seeing how your area impacts the other areas of a business, so you’re a lot more comfortable developing company-wide solutions. Many people who get MBAs consider changing career fields, exploring areas they wouldn’t have been able to before, because they now have a wider cross-section of knowledge and expertise.”
Mo Sattar, who directs the MBA program at Bay Path College, is another believer in the strength of the degree.
“It helps to create leverage: how can I be a little bit better than the next person or the next business? Knowledge creates power,” he said. “I believe in teaching students how to learn, how to be life learners. That really matters, especially in the MBA world.”
For this issue’s focus on education, BusinessWest sits down with administrators from six area institutions — Western New England University, Elms College, and UMass Amherst are the others — to talk about the elements of a vibrant MBA program, and how the schools are tailoring their offerings to a very diverse group of degree seekers.

Matt Fox

Matt Fox says WNEU’s MBA program, like many regional offerings, allows students to finish in a year or longer, working on campus or online.


Time Trials
Some undergraduates intend to continue on to an MBA program right after finishing their bachelor’s degree, while many MBA students are longtime professionals returning to school to enhance their career prospects — and don’t necessarily have time to tackle a full-time course load or daytime classes. That’s why many colleges offer online courses, evening classes, or a blend of options.
For example, Springfield College’s 4+1 program “is an opportunity for our undergrads to stay a fifth year and earn their MBA,” Carlson Heler said. “What they do is take two classes in the summer after they earn their undergraduate degree and eight classes over the next two semesters.
“We have also attracted professionals from the community. Some of them have done the program in one year, working full-time and also going to school full-time,” she said. “But most of my professionals who join our program do it on a part-time basis, and do about two classes a semester.”
Similarly, the MBA program at UMass Amherst, part of its Isenberg School of Management, also stresses flexibility — to pursue a degree full-time on campus, completely online, or in a blended format at any satellite campus location.
Katherine Piedra, the director of the full-time program, has a unique perspective on that track, having graduated from it in 2004; now, she handles admissions, acceptance procedure, and operations, among other roles.
“The format hasn’t changed much from when I was here eight years ago,” she said, noting that most of the core coursework is completed during the first year, with field work highlighting the second year.
“We get a gamut of people, and we want a diverse class — not just in the traditional diversity sense, culturally, but across the board. We have about 35% international students in our class,” Piedra said.
Having both full-time and online options provides needed flexibility for the differing needs of students, she added. “The full-time program tends to have more people who are career changers. With the online program, it’s people who want their MBA to stay within their company, but want that boost. The online students tend to be older on average, too.”
She noted that, over the years, online degree seekers have multiplied, with a corresponding decline in those pursuing the full-time program. So the playing field has changed, with a lot more entrants into the online market.” Piedra said
Like most regional offerings, AIC’s MBA program can be finished in under two years, although some students, largely working professionals, may spread it out over three to five years, Barron said. “We have an interesting mix, with students coming from undergraduate programs as well as people who have been in the workforce 5, 10, 20-plus years.”
Western New England University also offers a blended online and evening degree program. “Right now, we primarily serve working professionals,” said Matthew Fox, director of Recruiting and Marketing for Graduate Studies and Adult Learning. “But the traditional student coming right out of college with a bachelor’s degree, that’s growing.”
This fall, WNEU will launch a full-time, accelerated day program in addition to its existing track. “We see that as a great opportunity to cater to a growing international student body,” Fox said. “They’re clearly looking for an experience where they can be immersed in their studies and have that continuous, face-to-face interaction with the faculty, as opposed to the existing model that blends online and in-classroom time.”
In any case, he added, “we emphasize to students, whether they’re traditional students or working professionals, they can accelerate their studies and finish the program in as little as a year, or they can take longer. It’s quite flexible.”

What’s Your Niche?
Students are also finding flexibility in the focus of the region’s various MBA programs.
For example, the Elms, which launched its MBA program only last year, offers three areas of study — health care leadership, accounting, and management — in a fast-track, hybrid format that pairs online and on-campus courses, said Kerry Calnan, director of the program.
“We’re the last to the market, and it’s a saturated marketplace,” she noted, adding that the school’s leaders took to heart a study conducted recently at Harvard called “Rethinking the MBA.”
“When we were getting ready to launch, we talked about the old-school model of MBA programs and how we needed to change if we wanted to add value, so that people who go through our program are valuable in the marketplace. We want to make sure we’re fitting what the market needs.”
In doing so, Elms staff interviewed some two dozen senior-level business leaders in the region and asked them what they’d like to see in an MBA program that they’re not getting from current MBA graduates.
“We developed our program by listening to what they had to say,” Calnan said, adding that the program taps area professionals to participate in course instruction, to lend more real-world credibility to the program. In fact, the five core courses in each track are delivered by a team comprised of an academic and a professional.
Springfield College, another recent entry into the MBA market with a program that started in 2010, offers two concentrations: one in for-profit management, and one in nonprofit management. The latter is attractive to people eyeing opportunities in health care, recreation, youth, the arts, sports, and as fund-development officers, to name just a few possible career tracks.
In both its general management and nonprofit concentrations, Springfield College offers a one-year, 30-hour degree program that’s tailored for professionals, Carlson Heler said.
“It’s a very doable degree; our classes are offered in the late afternoon and evening so that students can work during the day and take classes at night,” she noted. “And the size of our classes is very small, so students get to know their professors, and the professors get to know them.”
As with the Elms, it’s important that the SC program involve area professionals in the courses, “so students have an opportunity to tap into their experience.”
And the benefits of those exposures go both ways, Carlson Heler noted. One executive involved in the program told her, “‘I get to know the younger generation, and they will be my future employees — or, in some cases, my future boss. I get to know how they think and how they view the world, and it’s very important for me to have that opportunity.’
“I think it’s important.” she added, “that we reach out to the business and nonprofit community and ask them, ‘what should our students learn? What is important for them to be successful, and for your company or organization to have the best employees it can?’”

Mo Sattar

Mo Sattar says Bay Path’s MBA program helps students “connect the dots” and understand how all aspects of business work together.

AIC offers both a traditional MBA program and a ‘high-performance’ degree, with concentrations available in health care management, operations management, international business, strategic marketing, workforce and leadership development, fraud and financial crimes, green business, and management and sustainability.
“AIC had the first MBA program in Western Mass.,” Barron said. “One thing that’s unique is our strong entrepreneurship program. In our capstone course, the final course, students are actually required to go through and develop a business plan they can use to start their own business.”

Going Global
One theme that surfaced repeatedly in discussing area MBA programs is a focus on international business — reflective of what has become a global marketplace.
“Throughout the history of AIC and its MBA program, we have always had a strong international base in all key studies,” Barron said. “When we’re going through, asking about finance, economics, operations, we’re always going through what’s happening from a global perspective.”
That distinction has become crucial over the past two decades with the emergence of the Internet as a business tool, he added.
“If you look at a business that wants to operate out of a home, 20 years ago, the geographic area was the area around the house. Today, with the Internet, you’re literally doing business and delivering products around the world,” he noted. “So, how do we take this knowledge from all these subjects and not only apply it to local industry, but learn how to deal with it on a global basis?”
UMass provides overseas opportunities for its MBA students by means of exchange programs in Sweden, China, India, Brazil, Denmark, and South Korea.
“We’re working in a global economy,” Piedra said. “Anyone with international work experience in their MBA program has an edge going out into the work world, because of that experience working with people from other cultures and other countries.”
Sattar emphasized the way a strong MBA program “connects the dots” throughout the content, giving students a broad perspective on business.
“Our program starts with a business introduction where students learn about business models and strategy models and start to analyze some case studies and use analytical tools, like Excel,” he explained. Once students are grounded in that foundation, they move on to specifics like marketing, organizational behavior, business law and ethics, and the like, always being pushed to see the overlap between all of these disciplines.
“We learn about the important building blocks in business and how to connect them together, how to synthesize and optimize and maximize them,” Sattar said. “I find that, sometimes, people working in one area don’t understand what’s happening in the next cubicle or the next office.”
The idea, he said, is to produce professionals who understand the big picture within the company they work for — or, in many cases, who are able to launch their own enterprises.
“The value they get is not just that they truly understand marketing, finance, and legal issues,” he stressed. “The value is seeing how they are all connected. It’s more like a symphony than individual pieces of music, and the value comes in connecting everything together.”

Value Proposition
That word ‘value’ was another concept that area administrators kept returning to.
“I’ve been working with the graduate office for approximately five years, and I have found that the number of students seeking their MBA has definitely increased, whether it’s for an entry-level position or to enhance their prospects within their organization, or even to secure their present job,” Fox said.
“I think the value of an MBA has held, and if anything, the interest has increased from students seeking their MBA. We’ve seen our enrollments more than double in the last four years. Yes, we’re dealing with smaller numbers than some other schools, but it’s significant for us. That, to me, is a positive sign.”
Even a recently established program like the one at Springfield College is reporting positive returns in the single most critical area — post-degree employment.
“In our first class, the class of 2011, all of my students found good jobs within six months,” Carlson Heler said. “With the class of 2012, half of them have jobs, and the other half are interviewing, and it looks really good.
“The jobs are out there,” she continued. “People talk about the economy, but my students are finding jobs — maybe not all in the Pioneer Valley, unfortunately, which we would love, but the jobs are definitely out there for the MBA graduates.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Features
Nominations for the 40 Under Forty Class of 2012 Are Due Feb. 17

When BusinessWest launched its 40 Under Forty program in 2007, it did so with the expectation that the honor would soon become coveted and that the program would cast a bright light on the young talent in the four counties of Western Mass. To say that all this has happened would be a huge understatement. The program continues to grow in terms of both relevance and popularity, as evidenced by a new high-water mark for nominations in 2011 and record attendance at the June gala. And now, it’s time to nominate the class of 2012.

Eric Gouvin said being one of the judges for last year’s crop of 40 Under Forty nominees was a more difficult task than he thought it would be. But he said the experience was also enlightening — and encouraging, when he thinks about the future of the Western Mass. business community.
“It was hard,” said Gouvin, professor of Law and director of the Law and Business Center for Advancing Entrepreneurship at Western New England University. “There are a lot of talented people who participate, and to try to narrow that down to 40 was challenging. But I found it to be a real shot in the arm, for sure, to reassure me that we’re not running out of talented, smart people.”
Indeed, in its fifth incarnation, last winter’s nomination process brought forth a record number of applicants, demonstrating that, if anything, the program is only gaining steam.
“There’s so much enthusiasm,” said Pam Thornton, business development coordinator at United Personnel in Springfield, and current president of the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield (YPS), which has consistently mined its membership for 40 Under Forty honorees on an annual basis.
“If you think about it, the program has created a kind of precedent already, which is amazing,” she continued. “People really look forward to the opportunity to get their name out there, to get an opportunity to get in front of people, and that’s just an awesome thing for our group, and for our age group.”
Now entering its sixth year with a call for nominations, BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty has captured the respect of the region’s business community and continues to demonstrate that Western Mass. is home to a creative, motivated, and successful group of young business leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators — people who are redefining what it means to build successful businesses and serve their communities with whatever spare time they have left over.
There are clear benefits in recognizing local professionals under age 40, said Kate Campiti, BusinessWest’s associate publisher. But initially, there were some concerns as to whether a strong-enough crop could emerge year after year. Clearly, that worry has long been put to rest.
“I’m amazed at the number of strong nominations we’re getting every year,” Campiti said. “It really speaks to the depth of the young talent here in the region.”

Click here for a nomination form!

Shine a Light
The 40 Under Forty program was launched in 2007 as a way to spotlight the accomplishments of younger professionals throughout Western Mass. — not only their on-the-job achievements, but their often-extensive volunteer work with organizations that benefit their communities.
Over the years, the program has highlighted individuals from an impressive range of businesses and industries, including education, law, finance, media, medicine, creative arts, nonprofits, government, retail, restaurants, green business, and many others. And last year presented a first — a 16-year-old high-school student (Stephen Freyman) was among the winners.
In addition, a healthy number of honorees each year hail from the ranks of entrepreneurs, developing their own business plans and building companies that in turn create jobs.
Judges score nominees on a combination of their accomplishments (be they in business, government, or the nonprofit realm), leadership qualities, and work within the community.
The effort has also helped boost the image of groups like YPS and Northampton Area Young Professionals, which share a common goal with 40 Under Forty — specifically, demonstrating the economic and cultural vibrancy of this region and generating enthusiasm among talented professionals to set down roots in Western Mass.
“I would absolutely say that it’s raised our profile, without a doubt,” Thornton said, noting that YPS typically brings a strong contingent to the annual June gala. “Everyone looks forward to it, and it’s such a great event.”
One theme that past winners have touched upon repeatedly is the networking benefits generated by being chosen to the 40 Under Forty.
“The experience of being an honoree brought together 40 great business people with collegial networking and partnerships that wouldn’t have been made otherwise,” said Beth Vettori, executive director of Rockridge Retirement Community in Northampton, one of the 2011 honorees.
“Between the friendships formed and the business opportunities, the 40 Under Forty really provided a bridge to some successful affiliations,” she added. “These people I’ve been able to network with — they’re very charismatic, very intelligent, and it’s just great to see that the youth in this area really have depth.”
Vettori said those connections have given her a viable resource — plenty of new colleagues with strong business acumen.
“You’re able to have conversations that give you greater insight into your own business,” she said. “The networking has allowed me a greater understanding of my own operation. It’s helpful to get different perspectives, different ideas; other people may work in different fields, but it’s still business, and it allows you to expand your own thinking.”
As with the past five installments of 40 Under Forty, this year’s winners — chosen by a panel of judges comprised of area business leaders and previous honorees — will be profiled in a spring issue of BusinessWest (always a must-read issue) and toasted at the annual gala reception, which drew a record crowd last June, providing further evidence of the 40 Under Forty’s momentum.

Healthy Crop
Gouvin said the growing popularity of the program is due in part to the sheer impressiveness of the honorees.
“Lots of these folks are professionally accomplished and very engaged in our community; they’re giving back, too,” he told BusinessWest. “That’s very encouraging. We want to make this city the best it can be, but we all have to contribute, not just in our jobs, but in our free time, too. I really do feel like they’re making it better.”
The nomination form can be found on page 20 of this issue. It will be reprinted in upcoming issues as well, and may also be printed from businesswest.com. The deadline for entries is Feb. 17.
Thornton sees the 40 Under Forty, and the role of YPS in it, as a collaborative effort.
“It’s people doing great work together, and I feel like the YPS organization helps to feed the program,” she said. “It’s a way for our people to celebrate what they’ve done, who they are, and how they’ve gotten where they are. And it’s something we should continue if we want to keep the momentum going.”


Past Honorees

Class of 2007
William Bither III — Atalasoft
Kimberlynn Cartelli — Fathers & Sons
Amy Caruso — MassMutual Financial Group
Denise Cogman — Springfield School Volunteers
Richard Corder — Cooley Dickinson Hospital
Katherine Pacella Costello — Egan, Flanagan & Cohen, P.C.
A. Rima Dael — Berkshire Bank Foundation of Pioneer Valley
Nino Del Padre — Del Padre Visual Productions
Antonio Dos Santos — Robinson Donovan, P.C.
Jake Giessman — Academy Hill School
Jillian Gould — Eastfield Mall
Michael Gove — Lyon & Fitzpatrick, LLP
Dena Hall — United Bank
James Harrington — Our Town Variety & Liquors
Christy Hedgpeth — Spalding Sports
Francis Hoey III — Tighe & Bond
Amy Jamrog — The Jamrog Group, Northwestern Mutual
Cinda Jones — Cowls Land & Lumber Co.
Paul Kozub — V-1 Vodka
Bob Lowry — Bueno y Sano
G.E. Patrick Leary — Moriarty & Primack, P.C.
Todd Lever — Noble Hospital
Audrey Manring — The Women’s Times
Daniel Morrill — Wolf & Company
Joseph Pacella — Egan, Flanagan & Cohen, P.C.
Arlene Rodriquez — Springfield Technical Community College
Craig Swimm — WMAS 94.7
Sarah Tanner — United Way of Pioneer Valley
Mark Tanner — Bacon Wilson, P.C.
Michelle Theroux — Child & Family Services of Pioneer Valley Inc.
Tad Tokarz — Western MA Sports Journal
Dan Touhey — Spalding Sports
Sarah Leete Tsitso — Fred Astaire Dance
Michael Vann — The Vann Group
Ryan Voiland — Red Fire Farm
Erica Walch — Speak Easy Accent Modification
Catherine West — Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.
Michael Zaskey — Zasco Productions, LLC
Edward Zemba — Robert Charles Photography
Carin Zinter — The Princeton Review

Class of 2008
Michelle Abdow — Market Mentors
Matthew Andrews — Best Buddies of Western Mass.
Rob Anthony — WMAS
Shane Bajnoci — Cowls Land & Lumber Co.
Steve Bandarra — Atlas TC
Dr. Jonathan Bayuk — Hampden County Physician Associates
Delcie Bean IV — Valley Computer Works
Brendan Ciecko — Ten Minute Media
Todd Cieplinski — Universal Mind Inc.
William Collins — Spoleto Restaurant Group
Michael Corduff — Log Cabin Banquet and Meeting House
Amy Davis — New City Scenic & Display
Dave DelVecchio — Innovative Business Systems Inc.
Tyler Fairbank — EOS Ventures
Timothy Farrell — F.W. Farrell Insurance
Jeffrey Fialky — Bacon Wilson, P.C.
Dennis Francis — America’s Box Choice
Kelly Galanis — Westfield State College
Jennifer Glockner — Winstanley Associates
Andrea Hill-Cataldo — Johnson & Hill Staffing Services
Steven Huntley — Valley Opportunity Council
Alexander Jarrett — Pedal People Cooperative
Kevin Jourdain — City of Holyoke
Craig Kaylor — Hampden Bank / Hampden Bancorp Inc.
Stanley Kowalski III — FloDesign Inc.
Marco Liquori — NetLogix Inc.
Azell Murphy Cavaan — City of Springfield
Michael Presnal — The Federal Restaurant
Melissa Shea — Sullivan, Hayes & Quinn
Sheryl Shinn — Hampden Bank
Ja’Net Smith — Center for Human Development
Diana Sorrentini-Velez — Cooley, Shrair, P.C.
Meghan Sullivan — Sullivan, Hayes & Quinn
Michael Sweet — Doherty Wallace Pillsbury & Murphy
Heidi Thomson — Girls Inc.
Hector Toledo — Hampden Bank
William Trudeau Jr. — Insurance Center of New England
David Vermette — MassMutual Financial Services
Lauren Way — Bay Path College
Paul Yacovone — Brain Powered Concepts
Class of 2009
Marco Alvan — Team Link Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Gina Barry — Bacon Wilson, P.C.
Maggie Bergin — The Art of Politics
Daniel Bessette — Get Set Marketing
Brandon Braxton — NewAlliance Bank
Dena Calvanese — Gray House
Edward Cassell — Park Square Realty
Karen Chadwell — Doherty, Wallace, Pillsbury and Murphy, P.C.
Kate Ciriello — MassMutual Financial Group
Kamari Collins — Springfield Technical Community College
Mychal Connolly Sr. — Stinky Cakes
Todd Demers — Family Wireless
Kate Glynn — A Child’s Garden and Impish
Andrew Jensen — Jx2 Productions, LLC
Kathy LeMay — Raising Change
Ned Leutz — Webber & Grinnell Insurance Agency
Scott MacKenzie — MacKenzie Vault Inc.
Tony Maroulis — Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce
Seth Mias — Seth Mias Catering
Marjory Moore — Chicopee Public Schools
Corey Murphy — First American Insurance Agency Inc.
Mark Hugo Nasjleti — Go Voice for Choice
Joshua Pendrick — Royal Touch Painting
Christopher Prouty — Studio99Creative
Adam Quenneville — Adam Quenneville Roofing
Michael Ravosa — Morgan Stanley
Kristi Reale — Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.
Amy Royal — Royal & Klimczuk, LLC
Michelle Sade — United Personnel
Scott Sadowsky — Williams Distributing Corp.
Gregory Schmidt — Doherty, Wallace, Pillsbury & Murphy, P.C.
Gretchen Siegchrist — Media Shower Productions
Erik Skar — MassMutual Financial Services
Paul Stallman — Alias Solutions
Renee Stolar — J. Stolar Insurance Co.
Tara Tetreault — Jackson and Connor
Chris Thompson — Springfield Falcons Hockey Team
Karl Tur — Ink & Toner Solutions, LLC
Michael Weber — Minuteman Press
Brenda Wishart — Aspen Square Management

Class of 2010
Nancy Bazanchuk — Disability Resource Program, Center for Human Development
Raymond Berry — United Way of Pioneer Valley
David Beturne — Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampden County
Maegan Brooks — The Law Office of Maegan Brooks
Karen Buell — PeoplesBank
Shanna Burke — Nonotuck Resource Associates
Damon Cartelli — Fathers & Sons
Brady Chianciola — PeoplesBank
Natasha Clark — Springfield School Volunteers
Julie Cowan — TD Bank
Karen Curran — Thomson Financial Management Inc.
Adam Epstein — Dielectrics Inc.
Mary Fallon — Garvey Communication Associates
Daniel Finn — Pioneer Valley Local First
Owen Freeman-Daniels — Foley-Connelly Financial Partners and Foley Insurance Group
Lorenzo Gaines — ACCESS Springfield Promise Program
Thomas Galanis — Westfield State College
Anthony Gleason II — Roger Sitterly & Son, Inc. and Gleason Landscaping
Allen Harris — Berkshire Money Management Inc.
Meghan Hibner — Westfield Bank
Amanda Huston — Junior Achievement of Western Mass. Inc.
Kimberly Klimczuk — Royal, LLP
James Krupienski — Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.
David Kutcher — Confluent Forms, LLC
James Leahy — City of Holyoke and Alcon Laboratories
Kristin Leutz — Community Foundation of Western Mass.
Meghan Lynch — Six-Point Creative Works
Susan Mielnikowski — Cooley, Shrair, P.C.
Jill Monson — Adam Quenneville Roofing & Siding Inc. and Inspired Marketing & Promotions
Kevin Perrier — Five Star Building Corp.
Lindsay Porter — Big Y Foods
Brandon Reed — Fitness Together
Boris Revsin — CampusLIVE Inc.
Aaron Vega — Vega Yoga & Movement Arts
Ian Vukovich — Florence Savings Bank
Thomas Walsh — City of Springfield
Sean Wandrei — Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.
Byron White — Pazzo Ristorante
Chester Wojcik — Design Construction Group
Peter Zurlino — Atlantico Designs and Springfield Public Schools

Class of 2011
Kelly Albrecht — left-click Corp.
Gianna Allentuck — Springfield Public Schools
Briony Angus — Tighe & Bond
Delania Barbee — ACCESS Springfield Promise Program
Monica Borgatti — Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity
Nancy Buffone — University of Massachusetts
Michelle Cayo — Country Bank
Nicole Contois — Springfield Housing Authority
Christin Deremian — Human Resources Unlimited/Pyramid Project
Peter Ellis — DIF Design
Scott Foster — Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas, LLP
Stephen Freyman — Longmeadow High School
Benjamin Garvey — Insurance Center of New England
Mathew Geffin — Webber and Grinnell
Nick Gelfand — NRG Real Estate Inc.
Mark Germain — Gomes, DaCruz and Tracy, P.C.
Elizabeth Gosselin — Commonwealth Packaging
Kathryn Grandonico — Lincoln Real Estate
Jaimye Hebert — Monson Savings Bank
Sean Hemingway — Center for Human Development
Kelly Koch — Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas, LLP
Jason Mark — Gravity Switch
Joan Maylor — Stop and Shop Supermarkets
Todd McGee — MassMutual Financial Group
Donald Mitchell — Western Mass. Development Collaborative
David Pakman — Vivid Edge Media Group/The David Pakman Show
Timothy Plante — City of Springfield/Springfield Public Schools
MauricePowe — The Law Offices of Brooks and Powe
Jeremy Procon — Interstate Towing Inc.
Kristen Pueschel — PeoplesBank
Meghan Rothschild — SurvivingSkin.org
Jennifer Schimmel — Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity
Amy Scott — Wild Apple Design Group
Alexander Simon — LogicTrail, LLC
Lauren Tabin — PeoplesBank
Lisa Totz — ITT Power Solutions
Jeffrey Trant — Human Resources Unlimited
Timothy Van Epps — Sandri Companies
Michael Vedovelli — Mass. Office of Business Development
Beth Vettori — Rockridge Retirement Community

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Sections Supplements
NuCedar Mills Owner Hangs Out His Shingle — and His Clapboard

Tom Loper

Tom Loper is confident that a rebounding economy and the growing popularity of ‘green’ products will spawn strong growth at NuCedar Mills.

Tom Loper says he looks upon 2010 as what he calls a “restart” for his company, Chicopee-based NuCedar Mills.
Elaborating, he said the official start came in late 2006, when Loper, one of the founders of the Westfield-based company Kleer Lumber, a maker of PVC trimboard, decided to commence another venture that would go where Kleer Lumber didn’t or couldn’t — into the making of a product that reproduces vertical-grain cedar clapboard siding.
The product was several years and considerable pain and anguish in the making, but, when it was finally ready, it was everything that Loper hoped it would be — beautiful, durable, low-maintenance, and ‘green’ (more on that later). But more important was something it wasn’t — recession-proof.
“Our timing at the start wasn’t exactly good,” said Loper with a discernable trace of sarcasm. “I don’t think it could have been worse.”
But Loper has long known that his product is a good one, and he has since developed several new ones as well, including a shingle that is catching the attention of the marketplace. These developments have allowed his investors to remain patient and actually give him more room and capital with which to work. All this, coupled with the fact that the housing market, and especially the high-end market to which he caters, is coming around, has the energetic and entrepreneurial Loper quite optimistic about his restart.
NuCedar is a story that touches many bases: manufacturing, because Loper has done some pioneering to get his products to market in terms of innovation and waste-reduction efforts; entrepreneurship — there were some sizable risks with this startup; ‘green building,’ because of the environmentally friendly aspects to this product; and even marketing, for the ways Loper has been able to put his products in the spotlight — some through creativity and others through determination and simply having a good story to tell.
These include exposure through last summer’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition project (his siding was chosen for the home built in Suffield) to upcoming appearances on the show This New House (produced by the same people who put on The Old House and debuting later this year) to face time on something called Renovation Nation, hosted by long-time This Old House host Steve Thomas, on the Planet Green channel. Those latter two shows highlighted both the manufacturing innovations and the green qualities of the products.
“We had the This New House people out to tour the plant, and they spent the entire day here; they watched us make clapboard from beginning to end,” said Loper. “We just got the call last week … we’re going to be on the premier show. The producers liked us so much, we’re going to be a big part of that show.
“And we received a lot of time on Renovation Nation, which is great PR for us — people know those names and faces like Steve Thomas, and they respect him,” he continued. “And whenever we’re on one of those shows, the hits to our Web site increase significantly. That’s how we know people are watching.”
Loper is hoping that all this publicity will help in his restarting efforts, which are already off to a promising start with the introduction of the shingles and an apparent willingness on the part of consumers to spend on their homes again.
“We’re about two years behind schedule,” he said, referring to the timetable outlined in an original business plan that has seen a number of revisions and updates. “But we’ve got a really good chance to do some catching up.”
For this issue and its focus on green business, BusinessWest takes a look at a company that might have gotten off to a slow start, through no fault of its own, but certainly seems to have the right products at the right time.

House Money
Tracing the history of NuCedar, Loper said it came about through the simple observation that, if Kleer Lumber could make a high-quality PVC trimboard, then logic dictated that a similar product approximating traditional cedar siding could also be produced.
But Loper knew it wasn’t that simple. First, a system would have to be devised for making a product that looked like real cedar, was durable, could hold paint, could withstand the elements, and, most importantly from a business perspective, could be produced in a cost-effective manner. A supplier of the PVC material would have to found, and financing would have to be obtained.
The good news, said Loper, is that all those hurdles were eventually cleared, and the company was up and running at more or less full speed by the middle of 2007. The bad news is that it wasn’t at that speed for long, as the economy took its serious nosedive, and the bottom completely fell out of the new-home construction and remodeling markets.
Telling the story more slowly, Lopor said there was a considerable amount of research and development that went into NuCedar’s main product, the vertical grain cedar, which meets a real need within the building community — something that looks like cedar, specifically old growth trees, but isn’t.
That’s because, as Loper put it, when it comes to the real thing, “you can’t get it.”
Part of the reason is the spotted owl, he said, noting that it is partial to cedar trees and its presence has limited the number of trees that can be cut. And in areas where trees can be cut, there are other problems. “There are two things going on, fires and floods, and you take trees down, it makes both worse.”
New growth trees can be cut, said Loper, but that cedar doesn’t have the same look, and it often develops moisture problems that limit paint’s ability to stay on the board. “I have that on my house,” he explained. “It’s beautiful cedar, the best that was available, but I have to paint it every four or five years.”
Coming up with a cellular PVC product that had cedar’s looks but also much more durability and sustainability, were just some of the hurdles for Loper to overcome.
Indeed, innovative and cost-effective methods were found for everything from cutting the board to applying the paint; from devising and producing an interlocking system that allows each clapboard to support the one below it, to recycling the dust created in the production process.
The paint itself was a work in progress for many months. Working with supplier Sherwin Williams, Loper was able to secure a product that has a two-part coating that chemically hardens to form an impenetrable barrier. It also helps reduce energy costs and is available in more than 1,400 custom colors, five ‘historical colors,’ and 17 popular selections, including Watch Hill white, Chatham sand, Sunapee stone, Mohegan tan, and Suffield blue (the color chosen for the Extreme Makeover home).
The downturn in the economy certainly slowed the company’s development, but it didn’t stop it in its tracks, nor did it derail efforts to build on the original product line.
“We’ve been lucky … during the downturn, we went to our investors and said, ‘our timing really stunk getting started in the first place, based upon the way the housing market has gone. We’ve seen a lot of manufacturers shuttering their doors,’” he said. “We told them, ‘we’d like to go in the opposite direction. You can close the doors if you want to, but we’d actually like to get a little more money out of you and build a couple of other lines.’ And they let us go ahead and do it.”
So in addition to the traditional, or ‘smooth,’ cedar, the company has subsequently produced a few other offerings, including a roughsawn model that is proving to be quite popular with homeowners, said Loper, adding that it was this development that eventually brought the company into an entirely new product line: shingles.
“People looked at the roughsawn clapboard and said, ‘if you can do this, why don’t you just go ahead and make shingles?” he said, adding that the products are similar in looks and manufacturing techniques. “We did, and now it seems like we can’t make them fast enough, with the market coming back, especially on the high end.
“For a long time, people with money were reluctant to spend it, because they didn’t feel secure enough to,” he continued. “Now, they’ve gained the confidence to make the investments in their homes that they want to make and have probably put off for a long time.”

Board Meetings
But there are other elements leading to NuCedar’s success beyond the economy and a unique way to replicate cedar.
Indeed, beyond the good looks and durability of the company’s products are a number of ‘green’ attributes, said Loper, noting that these qualities have made NuCedar products popular among architects who want to incorporate green into their design, and also with consumers, who like being environmentally friendly — and saving money.
NuCedar’s offerings are 100% recyclable, said Loper, adding that they can yield 5% to 9% savings on energy bills, depending on location and wall insulation, due in large part to a solar-reflective coating that reduces heat transfer from the sun’s rays, reduces the energy required to heat a home, and permits dark colors to be used in warm climates. The company calls it “cool-wall technology.”
“The Department of Energy did a study — those are their numbers, not ours,” he said, referring to the potential savings rates. “And in the south, those percentages equate to big money on air-conditioning costs; we’re talking about thousands of dollars in some instances.”
One key to those savings is the use of ceramic-based pigments in the paint applied to the siding as well as the shingles, said Loper, noting that it is the same material used in what’s known as ‘cool-roof technology,’ now mandated in many parts of the South and West. It’s also used by the U.S. military on ground vehicles and aircraft.
“If you take a aircraft that’s made out of composite materials that goes from being in 100-plus-degree heat in the desert to 20 below when they’re high in the atmosphere — and they do that every day — the composite material expands and contracts at a furious rate,” he explained. “Our product also expands and contracts, but with this coating on it, there is less of that. More importantly, it’s solar-reflective.”
Moving forward, Loper says the pieces are falling into place for what is shaping up to be a very solid restart for his company. He noted that the high-end housing market is rebounding, with consumers now confident enough to move forward with renovations and new building. This confidence, coupled with the products’ increasingly popular green qualities, would seem to indicate that, this time around, the timing couldn’t be better for the company.
“The Wall Street people have gotten their bonuses, and a lot of them are spending them on their homes,” he said, citing just one example of consumer activity that is giving the company a needed lift as it looks to grow market share.
“All of the sudden, people who let the paint go and let the shingles go, they don’t want to let them go anymore, and we’re getting those jobs,” he said. “And we’re getting work all along the East Coast; Florida is still hurting, but many other areas are coming back.”
And then, there’s all that exposure through the media, which is prompting Web-site hits that lead to phone calls and, eventually, jobs to bid on. And once he has a chance to show what his products can do, Loper believes he has a solid chance of getting the work.

Through the Roof
As he talked about the strong start for his shingle products, Loper said they are opening the door to other types of business and bigger contracts. “People will look at them and how well they work and say, ‘what else do you have?’ This leads to people looking at the trimboard, and then eventually to the clapboard.
“We’ve seen that happen I don’t know how many times,” he said, adding that the diversity of product offerings and the chance to handle one or several aspects of a home-renovation project have led to opportunities as the market picks up.
This is just another of many factors that together indicate that, while this company didn’t get off to a good start, it may get off to a great restart.

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

Opinion

It’s called ‘going green.’ That’s the simple term attached to the sometimes-complex process of incorporating environmentally sensitive thinking to a company’s operations, policies, and even office design.

In this issue of BusinessWest, we talked to a number of area businesses about what they’re doing to ‘go green.’ The answers were so varied and expansive that the stories took on lives of their own, and could very well lead to even more news in our pages about environmental efforts across Western Mass.

Several area businesses have a wide array of initiatives in place. At Baystate Medical Center, for example, antimicrobial mops are seen as just as important a part of the green process as obtaining LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification on new construction projects. Similarly, at Big Y, reusable grocery bags reduce plastic consumption, while energy-saving computer systems on coolers, freezers, and lights save enough electricity in a year to power 90 homes.

The breadth of those projects shows why Springfield was recently named the fourth-greenest community out of 200 in the U.S. by Country Home magazine, and among larger cities, the magazine rated the city number one. They also show that going green can be an incremental undertaking for businesses of all sizes, perhaps starting with smaller, more manageable initiatives and gradually expanding with a company’s knowledge and resources.

Going green isn’t an easy feat for any business. Putting new plans in place requires a substantial amount of knowledge of a given organization’s own energy and resource consumption and how it can be curtailed, and an understanding of federal and state regulations, especially if green initiatives are being implemented with the hope of garnering tax credits. Cost analyses must be completed to ensure that any program makes sense in the long run for a company, and won’t decimate the bottom line.

Laws surrounding green business are also constantly changing. A greater number of states are drafting more specific laws to conform with the changing face — and energy demands — of industry and commerce.

Many companies in the Bay State are taking a proactive approach to green initiatives regardless of formal rules or regulations. It’s likely that, in the coming years, these companies could avoid some costly and time-consuming regulatory hassles, while others play catch-up.

At the very least, every company should seriously consider going green. As our own research found, many business owners can identify some practices just by taking a look around. It could be that a cost-saving measure put in place last year also had a positive effect on the environment — things like long-lasting light bulbs, for instance, or the recycled paper in the copier.

The strong ranking in Country Home is not merely another feather in the region’s cap. Green cities also attract new blood and new jobs. More than ever, young professionals list a region’s environmental friendliness as one of the top deciding factors when relocating.

We admit to being surprised to find such enthusiasm for going green across Western Mass., but encouraged. It creates an excellent base from which to build, and will allow us to create and support further initiatives that could not only reduce the area’s impact on the environment, but save much-needed resources as it moves forward in challenging economic times.

Going green isn’t just about doing good anymore, though that should remain a primary driver behind the trend. Now, it’s another way this region can thrive, and position itself as a prime destination in which to live, play, and work.

Looking back 10, 20, or 50 years from now, we’d like to say we watched the Western Mass. business community rally together as part of the region’s rebirth, and to reach an objective that just made sense.-