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Policy of Partnership


Bill Grinnell

Among other reasons, Bill Grinnell says Webber & Grinnell joined with the Alera Group because of its commitment to the agency’s local focus.

Bill Grinnell says last year’s move by Webber & Grinnell Insurance to become part of the national Alera Group hasn’t changed much about the agency’s business model or its relationships with clients. And that was the idea.

“We’re still managing the agency locally here in Northampton and Holyoke,” said Grinnell, the agency’s longtime partner. “It’s still basically the same crew we had before, outside of some normal turnover.”

So why the move to Alera?

“I turned 60 last year, and we’re looking toward the future of perpetuating the agency and continuing to grow it, so we began looking for partners to help us perpetuate that moving forward,” he said. “We talked to 10 to 12 overall, and Alera, hands down, was the one group that really fit all our needs, and thus we became part of the Alera Group.

Partner Mike Welnicki, who specializes in employee benefits, explained why Alera stood out.

“Our area is a tight-knit business community, and we knew, if we joined a firm that wanted us to rebrand right away, to maybe move our offices or join up with other companies and really change the way that our model worked, we were going to lose that small-business feel in Western Massachusetts,” he said. “What Alera told us was, ‘we’re going to give you all the resources both regionally and nationally, but you’ve been successful for over 100 years; keep running your business the way you run it, and we want to be part of that.’ That’s really what made Alera stick out immediately.”

“What Alera told us was, ‘we’re going to give you all the resources both regionally and nationally, but you’ve been successful for over 100 years; keep running your business the way you run it, and we want to be part of that.”

What has changed, Grinnell said, is the breadth of resources Webber & Grinnell can now access.

“Our business is split three ways: personal lines, commercial lines, and employee benefits. Alera has a group of other property-casualty agencies, other employee-benefit agencies, across the Northeast. And we’re on the phone or in meetings just collaborating with them all the time. For example, we might get an opportunity to work on a risk, but we might not have the expertise or experience to enable us to write that risk, but another Alera agency might specialize in that market niche. So we’re able to tap into their expertise, into their markets. It just brings extra insurance minds and experience to the table in addition to what we had already at Webber & Grinnell.”

Mat Geffin

Mat Geffin says Webber & Grinnell has been consistently growing both organically and geographically.

Jenna Duval, Commercial Lines manager at Webber & Grinnell, said Alera’s values also lined up with the local agency. “That’s where it was an easy sell with my team to get behind Alera; they really do work in a collaborative spirit, and they work with each person to make sure those individual needs are being met, and it’s not just the big corporate feel of one company. We run as an individual branch with that collaborative spirit, and it really does make a huge difference with morale; everybody is on board with it.”

Beyond the new affiliation, Webber & Grinnell has been growing both organically and geographically, said Mat Geffin, another partner. He was on Cape Cod when he spoke with BusinessWest, an example of how the agency’s reach has spread.

“Our roots are in Western Mass., and that’s where the bulk of our business is, but we get pulled into clients all over New England, just because of our approach, the way we work with clients, and the value they get from it. From an organic growth standpoint, year over year, I want to say we’re always consistently growing in that 8% to 10% range, some years bigger, some years smaller, but we’re consistently growing, and most of it is referral-based business. And I think it’s because of the consultative approach we take to this business, which clients really appreciate, and it differentiates us quite a bit.”


Threat Assessment

That approach ensures that clients understand all their risks and exposures so they purchase the right policy, but it goes much deeper than that, Geffin said.

“We get really involved in the client’s business. Of course, we have a huge personal-lines operation as well, home and auto, but speaking from the commercial side of the house, it’s about being a part of their business, being on their team — understanding what they do operationally and how that translates to risk management, rather than just looking at it purely from the standpoint of coverage and insurance and quotes.

“Any agency can just quote a bunch of policies; that’s the basic part of the job,” he went on. “But how do you understand their operations, their culture, their level of employee engagement, and how that translates to risk and risk management? That’s the difference. And I think that’s what clients value about what we do.”

Welnicki said Webber & Grinnell wants clients to see the agency as a key employee in their firm.

“You need to evaluate what revenues we’re receiving as your broker and decide, are we worth it, just like any other key employee? If we’re not, then we’re not the right fit,” he explained. “We really want them to view us as an important resource of their business, and that’s why our retention rates have been in that 97%, 98%, 99% range year after year, to help us achieve that 8% to 10% growth.”

“We’re consistently growing, and most of it is referral-based business. And I think it’s because of the consultative approach we take to this business, which clients really appreciate, and it differentiates us quite a bit.”

Risk is always evolving, Grinnell said, most notably in the cyber liability realm. Since major breaches like

Bill: It’s always evolving. The biggest new coverage that emerged in the last five to eight years is cyber liability, and even that started off really as a coverage to protect your data. The TJ Maxx breach in 2007, which compromised the data of 94 million customers, and other breaches that followed have spurred companies to get on board with protecting their data.

“And that’s evolved even more; the bigger exposure now is extortion, where cyber thieves are coming in and shutting down your entire computer system and saying they want to be paid $100,000, $200,000, $500,000, or you’ll never log into your computer system again,” Grinnell said. “Not only is the coverage new, but how you’re selling it and what the exposures are have changed.”

So has the reporting employers have to do now because of the Affordable Care Act and a host of other regulatory entities, Welnicki said.

“You’ve got human-resource folks wearing 19 different hats, and controllers, CFOs, and business managers trying to do the HR functions. Part of our job is help support human resources, make sure they’re in compliance with the DOL and IRS and ACA. So many of our clients really don’t have that classically trained human resources professional, and that’s where our team, not only locally but with Alera nationally, can help them make sure they’re in full compliance.”

On the residential side, customers need to understand what their policies cover as well, Grinnell said, while insurance carriers are insisting on certain levels of protection these days, especially in coastal regions or other areas vulnerable to catastrophic weather, “because the cost of claims has just skyrocketed.”


Creating a Culture

Webber & Grinnell’s relationship with clients even extends to conversations about workplace culture, which is key to employee retention, especially at a time when businesses are struggling with that.

“We practice what we preach here at the agency, and we’re really proactive about creating a positive culture, and we’ve learned a lot along the way,” Grinnell said. “As a result, we’re able to have those conversations with our clients. So we get into not only insurance, but also just plain running your business and how to make it better. We try to have those overall business conversations with our clients and not just focus on quoting policies.”

Duval seconded the idea of practicing what they preach. “We’ve continued to build our culture. We have a work-hard, play-hard atmosphere; we’re definitely busy, and we put education into everything we do to better our employees, but we like to have fun, too.”

For example, a social committee plans events for both in-office and remote workers that helps everyone feel part of the organization and its collaborative spirit, she explained. “We want to get to know the team and have team-building moments, so everyone feels supported and has an opportunity to meet and talk and have that collaborative spirit outside of work.”

Geffin noted that culture is so important at Webber & Grinnell that the agency has a ‘culture book’ that’s given to new employees as part of the onboarding.

“It’s a way to emphasize how important culture is to the company, because, again, we try to practice what we preach. We talk about employee engagement with our clients, with our prospective clients, but most importantly with ourselves.”

That culture extends to supporting some 50 to 60 organizations in the community, by sponsoring events, like Safe Passage’s Hot Chocolate Run, and sitting on boards; for example, Grinnell is treasurer of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, and Geffin is treasurer of Clinical & Support Options.

“Whenever an employee has an idea on something they want to do from a community standpoint, we’re always figuring out how we can work it in,” Geffin said. “I think that’s just being a part of a business community with our peers and colleagues throughout Western Mass. What makes Western Mass. so great is we all do this. It’s not unique to us. We’re just happy to be a part of that community.”

When the agency acquired Ross Insurance in Holyoke several years ago, that was an important consideration for Ross as well, Grinnell said, which is why Webber & Grinnell has continued to support many Holyoke organizations.

It’s all part of a local focus that Alera has promoted from day one and impacts all parts of the business, he added.

“Alera’s tagline is ‘national scope, local service,’ and I think it’s really important to emphasize that, because we wanted that national scope, that ability to further enhance our colleagues’ careers and help our clients get more resources, yet not lose the local touch and the local leadership,” Geffin said. “When we made that move, that was top of the list.”

Insurance Special Coverage

Putting a Premium on Measured Growth

Current and future leaders at the Dowd Agencies

Current and future leaders at the Dowd Agencies, from left: Evan Dowd, account executive; John Dowd Jr., president and CEO; Dave Griffin Jr., senior vice president; and Jack Dowd, vice president of Personal Lines.

There’s a framed picture of downtown Holyoke on one wall of the conference room at the Dowd Agencies — downtown Holyoke circa 1870.

The view is looking west along Dwight Street by the first-level canal. City Hall, prominent in the upper-left corner, looks … exactly as it does today. The other side of Dwight Street, not so much — most of the buildings seen in the image have been gone for decades. For perspective, a horse-drawn carriage is moving east down the hill.

John Dowd Jr. said the picture was owned by a long-time client who offered it to him after Dowd repeatedly raved about it. He accepted the offer and gave the picture a prominent home — across the conference room from another framed photo, this one of the insurance company’s founder, James J. Dowd, who went into business just a few decades after that picture of downtown was taken.

Together, the pictures provide some needed perspective — about time, Holyoke, the company, change, what hasn’t changed — and how they all come together. And the juxtaposition of all this will come into even sharper focus in 2023, when the agency, which Dowd claims is the oldest family-owned insurance agency doing business in the Bay State, celebrates its 125th birthday.

“We want to continue to grow, but want to make sure we’re not growing too quickly; we don’t want to get over our skis, as we like to say.”

There hasn’t been much hard planning about how to mark that milestone, he said, adding that he and others will pick up the pace in the coming months and put together some events and programs, as they did for the company’s centennial in 1998.

“We have a few things we’re planning that are in the works,” he said. “We’re trying to do some things that involve the community; overall, it’s an opportunity for us to say ‘thank you’ to the community for supporting us for 125 years and through five generations. That’s an important ‘thank you,’ and we’re thinking long and hard about what we’re going to do.”

In the meantime, the company is taking steps to ensure that it can continue its long history as an independent agency, said Dowd, noting, for example, the latest in a series of recent acquisitions that provide needed size and flexibility at a time of continued consolidation in the insurance industry.

Just last month, the firm acquired the Ideal Insurance Agency in Ludlow, which, like many smaller, family-owned agencies in the area, became available for one of many reasons, ranging from COVID-19 to lack of a clear succession plan to the inability to effectively compete in a market increasingly dominated by larger firms.

photo of downtown Holyoke, circa 1870

This photo of downtown Holyoke, circa 1870, has earned a spot on the wall in the conference room at the Dowd Agencies.

This was the third such acquisition over the past two years, coming after Dowd bought the J. Raymond Lussier agency in West Springfield and the Wilcox agency in Westfield and Feeding Hills. This expansion has given the agency much greater size, and in insurance, as in banking and most all other sectors, size matters, and it bring benefits.

“The advantages come with volume with carriers,” Dowd explained, noting that the firm is roughly 30% larger than it was a few years ago, and almost double the size it was a decade ago. “The more volume you have, the better compensation you negotiate, as well as profit sharing, services, and other perks. We’ve been able to achieve some of that volume leverage through aggregation with other agencies and through M&A.”

Moving forward, the agency will continue to look for opportunities for growth organically, and also through additional acquisitions, said Dowd, adding that it approaches this assignment with an eye toward smart growth and not taking on too much too quickly.

“We want to continue to grow, but want to make sure we’re not growing too quickly; we don’t want to get over our skis, as we like to say,” he noted, borrowing a phrase used often in business to connote getting ahead of oneself with a specific strategic initiative. “A healthy company grows organically and also through M&A. With the M&A, it has to be measured growth, but organic growth is essential — that’s boots on the ground, bringing in new clients, retaining your current clients; that’s good, healthy growth, augmented by acquisition, which comes with debt, which obviously has to measured and balanced.”

Meanwhile, there are other matters to consider, said Dowd, including succession planning for this agency, something that is obviously taken seriously at a company that has been around this long, covets its independence, and wants things to stay that way.

For this issue and its focus on insurance, BusinessWest talked with Dowd about … well, everything conveyed by those two photos in the conference room.


Cover Story

Dowd told BusinessWest that the phone calls come maybe once a week, or five or six times a month on average.

They’re from representatives of private-equity firms who want to know if Dowd Insurance might be for sale, and, if so, under what circumstances. He tells them ‘no,’ and in a polite way — at least the first time they inquire.

“I’ll usually have one conversation with them and let them know that we’re not interested in selling and are happy to stay the way we are. And then when they call the next month with the same question, my patience starts to wane, and I start to wonder about how obligated I am to answer every email and every phone call, especially when I’ve already talked to them and told them my plan.”

“They are relentless,” said Dowd of those on the other end of the phone. “I’ll usually have one conversation with them and let them know that we’re not interested in selling and are happy to stay the way we are. And then when they call the next month with the same question, my patience starts to wane, and I start to wonder about how obligated I am to answer every email and every phone call, especially when I’ve already talked to them and told them my plan.”

These days, there are even more people calling and asking about the agency, he noted, and that’s because of those acquisitions over the past few years and the scale they generate.

It’s a somewhat minor annoyance, and at the same time a reminder of the agency’s track record for success, he said, adding, again, that he is polite, but only to a point.

Dowd has other matters to occupy his time, he noted, adding that, overall, the firm is still trying to make its way all the way back to where it was before the start of the pandemic, especially with “behind-the-scenes” work, as he called it, when it comes to quality, efficiency, and serving clients.

“We have a quality team that evaluates what we do and how we do it,” he explained. “They would get suggestions every month from anyone on the staff — ‘here’s an area that I think we can look at and get better at’ — and the quality team would research and come to us with suggestions for developing a plan. That’s an example of an area where we lost some momentum.”

Some momentum was also lost when it came to connecting with potential new customers, he went on, adding that this put far greater emphasis on growth through acquisition, which is exactly what the company did.

“From a revenue standpoint, we were flatlining — if we held onto everything,” he explained. “And we didn’t hang onto everything because businesses were closing. It was a scary time because there was so much uncertainty. But then came the M&A opportunity, and we looked at it and said, ‘this is not a great time to be taking on some debt, but we think this is prudent.”

John Dowd Jr., seen here next to a photo of the company’s founder, Joseph Dowd

John Dowd Jr., seen here next to a photo of the company’s founder, James J. Dowd, says the Dowd Agencies targets controlled, ‘smart’ growth, both organically and through acquisition.

Elaborating, he said the agencies that came into consideration were good fits, culturally and otherwise, and under normal circumstances, they would be consider logical acquisitions. The circumstances weren’t normal, but the times dictated some aggressive action.

“Sometimes you’ve got to stick your chin out there and, when opportunity knocks, take advantage of the opportunity,” he said, adding that this is just what the firm has done.

In doing so, it has put itself in and new different position — an independent agency of considerable size — and it is determined to sell both of those qualities.

“We’re a good-sized agency, certainly in Western Mass., and the only one of our size that is still independently owned — not owned by one of the big guys,” he said. “We like that distinction, and we use it to our advantage. We’re totally local — not only do we live and participate in our community here, we’re also locally owned, and profits go right back here in to Western Mass., and not Chicago or anywhere else.”

But with that independent status comes the challenge to compete with those often much larger concerns, Dowd explained, adding that this challenge, as in banking and other sectors, is very real and becoming more stern with each passing year.

“We’re at a point now where getting to the next level requires a higher level of sophistication in just about every area,” he said. “Obviously, technology is huge because it creates the efficiencies we need. Meanwhile, the labor market is extremely difficult and challenging right now.

“The investment in technology and the way we staff ourselves, the levels of management … all of these important areas have to be looked at and adjusted accordingly,” he went on. “You can’t keep doing things the way you were when you were half the size. You have to be forward-thinking in this business; you have to be looking ahead and be prepared for what may come, and you know the unexpected will happen. You have to be nimble enough to be able to adjust.”


Prudent Policy

As he looks forward, Dowd sees the agency doing what it has been doing all along and especially over the past decade or so — seeking to grow organically, but also looking for opportunities to grow through acquisition and expand geographically.

The agency currently has nine locations, all in Western Mass., but it is exploring options well beyond this area code, he noted.

“We’ve looked at Northern Connecticut, we’ve looked at acquisitions in Vermont and New Hampshire, and we’ve also looked at Eastern Mass., toward Worcester, working our way in that direction,” he said, adding that, while the agency serves clients in those areas and others, including Boston and New Jersey, it does not have a physical presence in those locations, but could attain some if the conditions are right.

“In our business, it’s about where your network of contacts takes you and what your appetite for challenge is,” he told BusinessWest. “Do you want to do what it takes to be regional and available and able to support services? You just have to be realistic that you can do what you say you can do.

“We’re careful and selective with regard to companies where there’s some distance,” he went on. “But we’re looking at some relationships in New York right now where we could possibly have an ofice and be able to operate similarly, but on a smaller scale, to what we’re doing here.”

Overall, there are a number of ways to get to the proverbial next level in terms of size and revenues, he went on, adding that, while remaining independent is the preferred route, the agency will consider all its options. “We’re evaluating what steps we need to take in order to continue to grow and build the company.”

Returning to those phone calls he gets from the private-equity firms, Dowd noted, again, that he doesn’t take many of those calls anymore.

“I feel bad about that, but not too bad,” he explained. “I get a lot of messages — they call and they say they’re from such and such firm, and he’s calling again; I talked to him a year or two ago and told him I’ll call if anything changes.”

Nothing has really changed, at least on that front, he went on, adding that there has certainly been change with regard to the company’s size, reach, and position among area agencies.

Over the course of 124 years, many things have changed, but the most important ingredient hasn’t — this is still an independent, family-owned agency.

And as it prepares to mark another important milestone, that’s a quality worth celebrating.


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

Business Management Daily News Employment

HOLYOKE —  The Dowd Agencies announced the promotion of Jack Dowd from account executive to vice president of personal lines. Dowd has been with the agency since 2016 and represents the fifth generation to join the family business.

“I am happy to announce the well-deserved promotion of Jack to this new position,” said John Dowd Jr., president and CEO of The Dowd Agencies. “For the past six years, he has been a very successful commercial producer as part of our sales team and in this new role, he will further develop the personal lines department including marketing, customer service, client retention and operating procedures.”

Jack Dowd graduated from Saint Michael’s College with a B.S. in business administration and received his MBA from the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business. A licensed property and casualty insurance producer, he achieved his certified insurance counselor (CIC) designation in 2019. In addition, he has participated in the 18-month Agents Sons & Daughters Training Program for underwriting at Quincy Mutual Insurance.

In his community, he serves on committees for the Brightside Foundation and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He is also a member of the board of directors for Boys Scouts of America, Western Massachusetts Council, where he serves as the risk management chair.

“I look forward to taking on more responsibility within the business,” said Jack Dowd. “Continuing the Dowd insurance tradition is important to me, and I am proud to be part of the fifth generation of this family-owned operation. I look forward to working with our team on the new challenges this position will bring, as well as the opportunity to continue to learn and grow here.”


Expanding the Footprint

Lussier-Dowd’s new office

Lussier-Dowd’s new office at 181 Park Ave. in West Springfield expands the merged company’s footprint to six locations.

The Dowd Agencies and the J. Raymond Lussier Insurance Agency announced last week they have merged their operations and will be known as Lussier-Dowd Insurance.

The merger and addition of a branch in West Springfield expands Dowd’s footprint to six offices located throughout the Pioneer Valley. The new office, located at 181 Park Ave., is minutes from Routes 5 and 20, and Interstates 91, 291 and 391. An open house will be planned at a later date.

“We’re excited for the Lussier Agency to be part of our team. I have known the Lussier family for many years, and they have always been a highly professional, customer-driven insurance agency,” said John Dowd Jr., president and CEO of the Dowd Agencies. “We are also excited to have a location in the fine town of West Springfield.”

The West Springfield office will be a full-service insurance agency providing personal, commercial, wealth-management, and employee-benefits products and services.

A native of West Springfield, David Griffin Jr., vice president of the Dowd Agencies, said he is excited about his company planting roots in his hometown. “I was born and raised in West Side, so it is particularly exciting for me. More importantly, West Side is a great and vibrant town here in Western Mass.”

The Lussier-Dowd Insurance Agency is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and can be reached by calling (413) 737-5359.

A full-service agency, the Dowd Agencies has been helping individuals and businesses in Western Mass. with their personal insurance, commercial insurance, employee benefits, and financial needs for more than 120 years. Established in Holyoke in 1898, the Dowd Agencies is the oldest insurance agency in Massachusetts with operations and management under continuous family ownership.



Premium Concerns

By Mike Horan

Insurance costs have already been rising — the property and casualty space has seen 11% rate increases annually, on average — due to uncertainty around pandemic losses, catastrophic natural-disaster claims, a lack of capacity in the reinsurance market, low interest rates, and increased size of claims due to social inflation.

Now, just a couple weeks into Joe Biden’s presidency, we are asking ourselves: how will the incoming administration impact businesses like yours, and, consequently, the insurance marketplace and your premiums?

With the inauguration of Biden on Jan. 20, we expect a return to a highly pro-union, pro-workers’-rights administration similar to what we saw under President Obama (and Vice President Biden) from 2009 to 2017. This could very well come with a change of leadership at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The current acting administrator, Loren Sweatt, has been in the role as an interim since 2017, and experts anticipate a changing of the guard.

“To prepare for the incoming administration and the changes that will accompany it, we encourage you to prioritize your safety practices. OSHA will be examining this much more closely, and so will the insurance companies.”

Most importantly for your business, you can count on a shift back to heavier enforcement of OSHA workplace violations. During his campaign for the presidency, Biden called on OSHA to “double the number of OSHA investigators to enforce the law and existing standards and guidelines.” Based on this, we expect more inspectors visiting businesses to ensure compliance, and heavier fines for infractions. We also anticipate a return to practices such as issuing press releases publicly naming companies that have been fined for workplace-safety violations, in an effort to discourage other businesses from making the same mistakes.

At Webber and Grinnell, we place heavy emphasis on loss control and creating a culture of safety within our clients’ operations. This is not just because we care about doing the right thing and keeping everyone safe (although that is certainly the primary reason). It’s also because we know that insurance companies are scrutinizing safety and losses more than ever due to the aforementioned facts about rising costs in the marketplace. They are rewarding safe companies and penalizing unsafe companies. One of the primary resources they use to make these decisions is OSHA records, so it is absolutely essential that you adhere to OSHA’s policies and guidelines.

To prepare for the incoming administration and the changes that will accompany it, we encourage you to prioritize your safety practices. OSHA will be examining this much more closely, and so will the insurance companies.

You need to be a step ahead by doing everything you can to create a culture of safety. Long-term benefits include fewer injuries, less downtime, lower insurance costs, better employee morale, and a work culture that will attract the best talent.


Mike Horan is a business insurance specialist and RiSC consultant at Webber and Grinnell Insurance.



Winter Weather Advisory

By Ryan K. O’Hara, Esq.

The start of a New England winter is one of nature’s cruelest jokes — one weekend, it’s 60 degrees and cloudless, stunning foliage glinting in brilliant sun (until it sets, and at a reasonable hour, mind you); the next, it’s pitch black before 5 o’clock, and the outside world morphs into a barren, inhospitable tundra. The chill November breeze whispers: “gotcha!”

Ryan K. O’Hara

Ryan K. O’Hara

Each year, this sudden shift catches me by surprise. If you’re an eternal pessimist like me, talk of winter likely conjures unpleasant visions of storms, salting, shoveling, ice scraping, and (gulp) car cleaning. Apart from the brightness and lightness of the winter holidays, the picture for the next several months is a bit grim.

As we steel ourselves for the winter ahead, it’s a good opportunity to give a moment’s thought to another cheerful seasonal topic — the legal aspects of snow and ice accumulation and removal. Whether you love the winter weather or just love to complain about it, snow, ice, and sleet are facts of life here in Western Mass. for more than a quarter of the year. And, as with any environmental condition, they cause accidents.

When winter weather plays a role in an accident causing property damage or injury, who is responsible? As usual, the old (perhaps roasted?) chestnut of a lawyerly answer applies: it depends. Generally, most liabilities relating to snow or ice arise from claims of negligence. Negligence occurs when someone who owes a duty of care fails to act reasonably, causing harm to someone else. Everyone owes a general duty of reasonable care in their actions to all people those actions may affect.

“Negligence occurs when someone who owes a duty of care fails to act reasonably, causing harm to someone else. Everyone owes a general duty of reasonable care in their actions to all people those actions may affect.”

In practice, this means that, when any of us have snow-cleaning responsibilities, if we are negligent in carrying them out, we may be liable to others — a scary premise. However, simple steps can go a long way in avoiding accidents in the first place. An increased mindfulness of winter weather and its impact on safety will make sure you stay off your insurer’s naughty list. Below are summaries of liability concerns arising from winter weather in some common contexts, with recommendations for how you can appropriately protect yourself and others.



The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has established a rule that property owners must address all snow and ice on their properties, and act reasonably in removing snow and ice to make the property safe for use (see Papdopolous v. Target Corp., 457 Mass. 368 [2010]). So, for example, when a patron slips on a walkway controlled by the business and breaks their wrist, the business may be legally responsible under Massachusetts law.

In deciding whether a business was negligent as to any harm caused by snow and ice, a jury will be directed to consider the reasonableness of safety measures taken. This analysis takes into account all relevant circumstances, including the severity of the storm, the amount of snow, the amount of time the condition existed, and the cost efficiency of safety measures.

The best way for businesses to protect themselves in these circumstances is to develop a protocol for preventing accumulation of snow and ice where possible, and for prompt post-storm cleanup. A reasonable business is one that anticipates risks posed by snow and ice and takes tangible steps to mitigate those risks.

Therefore, responsible businesses should be aware of impending weather events and take pre-storm steps (such as salting) to prevent accumulation in the first place. Removal of any snow necessary to enable patrons’ access to the business should be the first post-storm step, making sure that all walkways, stairs, and ramps are cleared and fully safe for use as soon as practical. At least one method of legally compliant access should be established before opening for business.

Winter-weather safety doesn’t stop at the front door, either. The business should also be cognizant of secondary weather impacts, such as the accumulation of water from snow melt tracked in by customers. To the extent there is any dangerous condition the business can’t fix, inside or outside, it should put up signs warning patrons of the danger (especially as a court would also evaluate an injured party’s own responsibility for their harm in any claim).

The business should also monitor changing conditions throughout the post-storm period, such as snow that melts and then refreezes. Finally, the business should keep an eye out for season-long hazards, like large icicles accumulating along gutters and eaves.

Often, businesses choose to contract with an outside vendor for snow removal. Although it’s never a bad idea to put a professional in charge, be wary of relying too heavily on contractors: if the contractor is failing, the business must take appropriate steps to ensure its premises are safe.


Landlords and Homeowners

In general terms, landlords and homeowners owe the same duty to their tenants and guests as do businesses to their patrons: reasonable care in removing snow and ice in any area controlled by them. Many of the same considerations apply. However, unlike a business, a landlord cannot simply stay closed to the public until snow is cleared; rather, their tenants are often at the property throughout the duration of a storm.

Accordingly, responsible landlords should be especially vigilant in monitoring for storms, and especially prompt in clearing any and all common areas and accesses into the building or units.



Finally, drivers should be attentive to all weather conditions. Should you be involved in any accident, the reasonableness of your driving (including your speed) will be evaluated in light of the weather and road conditions. Preventive measures such as snow tires, and using additional caution when driving during a storm, will aid you in avoiding accidents (and liability, should an accident occur).

Drivers should be sure to thoroughly clean their vehicles before hitting the road. Accumulation of snow and ice on hoods, windshields, roofs, and trunks is a hazard — who hasn’t seen a practical glacier fly off the roof of a semi on the Pike? State law makes clear that drivers are obligated to clear their vehicles before they begin driving. Scofflaws ignore this rule at their own peril: not only might you earn a fat ticket from a state trooper, but if snow and ice flies off your roof and causes an accident, your violation of state law will be evidence of your negligence (and, therefore, liability for the accident).



The law is clear: Massachusetts citizens who take a lackadaisical approach to snow removal are walking on thin ice. If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident involving winter weather, you want to be sure you have taken reasonable, appropriate measures to ensure the safety of yourself and others. Fortunately, such steps are typically simple, inexpensive, and within your control.

No one likes shoveling (no one I know, anyway); however, a little shoveling beats a lot of medical bills and legal fees. Plus, you’ll even get a little exercise. Who couldn’t use that in the middle of the darkest, coldest days of the year?


Ryan K. O’Hara is an associate with Bacon Wilson, P.C. and a member of the firm’s litigation team. His legal practice is focused on contract and business matters, landlord-tenant issues, land-use and real-estate litigation, and accidents and injuries; (413) 781-0560; [email protected]

Coronavirus Insurance Special Coverage

At a Premium

The story is a familiar one by now: hospitals across the U.S., hammered by COVID-19, began directing resources toward fighting the pandemic last spring and curtailed elective and non-emergency procedures. Meanwhile, patients, even when sick, stayed away from medical practices out of fear of infection.

As a result, health insurers continued to reap premiums while paying out millions of dollars less in medical claims. Some of the largest companies reported second-quarter earnings about double what they were a year ago. Anthem’s net income soared to $2.3 billion for the second quarter, up from $1.1 billion in 2019, while UnitedHealth reported net income of $6.7 billion, compared to $3.4 billion last year. Humana’s second-quarter net income rose from $940 million in 2019 to $1.8 billion in 2020.

But the issue is a complex one, especially in Massachusetts, where laws governing insurance are different, said Keith Ledoux, vice president of Commercial Line of Business, Sales, Marketing, and Business Development for Health New England, a 166,000-member health plan based in Springfield.

For example, HNE did see lower utilization for medical services among its members in the early months of the pandemic; however, at the same time, it saw an increase in prescription-drug fills as members made sure they had their medications during stay-at-home orders.

“On the pharmaceutical side, we saw a small spike in claims and overall costs starting at the end of March and the beginning of April because we had relaxed our rules on allowing folks to fill prescriptions early, or to get a greater supply,” Ledoux told BusinessWest.

Meanwhile, “after April, on the medical side, we saw a significant reduction in claims, but starting in probably June, we started to see that pick back up — almost back to what we would consider to be somewhat normal.”

At the same time, the pandemic brought about a significant increase in telehealth utilization; through April, HNE had processed 114,000 telehealth visits for its members versus 900 in all of 2019, accounting for $12 million in costs for Health New England.

“One reason that’s so costly for us is that we’re mandated by the government to pay the same rate for telehealth as we would for an in-person visit, and typically telehealth is cheaper than in person,” Ledoux said, adding that future state negotiations will likely alter that formula as telemedicine continues to gain traction in healthcare.

“The silver lining is not the cost, but the behavior shift of so many members embracing the idea of telemedicine, which does broaden your ability to access non-invasive care. There’s definitely an opening for systems to adopt a new approach and potentially increase their revenue stream using telemedicine.”

Massachusetts-based Tufts Health Plan reported that COVID-19 treatment costs were one factor in actually recording a drop in net income between the first six months of 2019 to and the six months of June 2020.

Keith Ledoux

Keith Ledoux

“After April, on the medical side, we saw a significant reduction in claims, but starting in probably June, we started to see that pick back up — almost back to what we would consider to be somewhat normal.”

“Tufts Health Plan proudly serves all segments of the market, regardless of a person’s age or life circumstance,” Chief Financial Officer Umesh Kurpad noted in a statement. “This diversity in our business translates into different financial pressures, such as significantly higher COVID-19 infection rates and treatment costs for our members, particularly those who rely on both Medicare and Medicaid.

“Year-to-date, our earnings were challenging, with the increased costs of COVID-19-related expenses across virtually all of our businesses,” he went on, projecting COVID-19 expenses to reach $220 million for the full year. “The pandemic cost tail is anticipated to be long with the lingering impact of COVID-19 survivors and increased morbidity from deferred care.”

In short, there’s no one trend common among health insurers in a year where they, like all industries, have learned to expect the unexpected.

Appointment Viewing

Another Massachusetts-based insurer, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, reported little change in second-quarter net income from 2019 ($36.2 million) to 2020 ($40.9 million). It also encouraged members not to avoid medical services they need.

“Now more than ever, our focus remains on the health and well-being of our members and the communities we serve,” President and CEO Michael Carson said. “Many people have deferred care over the past several months, and it is incredibly important that they not neglect their health. Healthcare providers have implemented stringent safety precautions, and we encourage our members to seek routine and preventive care, including checkups, health screenings, and vaccinations.”

Ledoux told BusinessWest that HNE typically doesn’t know the performance of a year until probably three or four months after the year has closed.

In its planning for 2021, he explained, the company must consider uncertainties with expenses, which include utilization continuing to pre-COVID levels; increased use of high-cost technology; and costs of new pharmaceuticals, vaccines and testing, as well as increased costs for certain behavioral healthcare for children and adolescents.

Consumers are protected to an extent by state and federal laws that require health plans to rebate customers annually if the percent of premiums spent on medical expenses falls below a certain threshold.

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers are required to use a fixed percentage of the money they take in from premiums for their customers’ medical expenses — at least 80 cents of every dollar they collect in premiums from small businesses and individuals, and 85 cents per dollar for large employers. The remaining 15% to 20% percent is what they are allowed under the ACA to spend on administrative costs like overhead and marketing, and to keep as profit. Excess revenues are to be returned to consumers in the form of rebates.

“If we perform even 0.1% better than 88%, we have to rebate that excess margin back to the market. In a regular year, our target margin is around 1.9%, which we hardly ever achieve. All these variables make it difficult to make a profit.”

Under Massachusetts’ health-insurance law, that number rises to 88 cents on the dollar. “If we perform even 0.1% better than 88%, we have to rebate that excess margin back to the market,” Ledoux said, adding that, “in a regular year, our target margin is around 1.9%, which we hardly ever achieve. All these variables make it difficult to make a profit.”

Some of those variables emerged this year in the form of concessions to the pandemic and the stress it has placed on families, he noted. “We relaxed a lot of rules on how we collect premiums. Normally it’s a 30-day grace period, and we expanded that another 30 days.” HNE also allowed furloughed employees to stay on their companies’ health plans.

“We continue to evaluate our position in the market,” he added. “There are already protections in place, profits above what would be considered reasonable, and a mandate to rebate that back to the market. We already know it self-corrects on its own.”

Meredith Wise, president of the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast, told BusinessWest that health-insurance premiums haven’t been a big topic among EANE’s members. “We’ve heard from some employers who are getting refunds, but it hasn’t been a major thing that anyone is focusing on at the moment.”

Nationally, insurers are spending a far lower portion of premium revenue on their customers’ healthcare costs. For example, CVS said its medical-benefits ratio was 70% for the second quarter, compared to 84% over the same period in 2019.

According to a report in the New York Times, the ACA gives companies a three-year window to calculate how much to return, so members probably shouldn’t expect relief anytime soon, especially because it’s hard to tell what the rest of the year will bring, with COVID-19 numbers still fluctuating dramatically from state to state, as well as the impact of potentially expensive new vaccines or treatments around the corner. At the same time, many people who postponed getting medical attention could surge back into doctors’ offices and submit more bills for coverage.

“The second half of the year could see a lot more care, and higher costs, than the first half of 2020,” according to a statement by America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). “However, if these costs never materialize and remain below certain levels, American consumers, businesses, and taxpayers are protected by provisions in federal and state laws that require health-insurance providers to deliver premium rebates and put money back into their pockets.”

Community Focus

In addition to changes in patient volume and the bottom line, the pandemic shifted the priorities of Health New England in other ways, Ledoux said.

For instance, it contributed $300,000 in grants for COVID-19 relief efforts throughout Western Mass. to help residents with access to food, mental healthcare, child care, housing, and basic needs.

The company has also made benefit adjustments that make it easier for members to get the care they need, such as eliminating out-of-pocket costs for all telehealth services and for COVID-19 diagnostic testing ordered by a medical professional, no prior authorizations for members receiving medical care for COVID-19, and flexibility with payment plans and adjusted underwriting guidelines to ease the burden for employer-group customers and members.

Meanwhile, as it approaches Medicare’s annual enrollment season, Health New England is holding online Zoom sessions and drive-up events, and has added staff to its call center, to help educate people about their Medicare options.

“The second half of the year could see a lot more care, and higher costs, than the first half of 2020.”

Tufts has implemented a number of changes as well, including compensating providers 100% of an in-office rate for telehealth, working with providers on a case-by-case basis to address their concerns regarding payment stability, extending premium payment periods for employers who need more time to make payments, and contributing $2 million to support those affected by the coronavirus outbreak in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Connecticut.

Certainly, reports of soaring profits may persuade some lawmakers to revive proposals to cap insurers’ profits even more, but insurers say they are using their financial strength to help customers, hospitals, and doctors. In the New York Times report, AHIP also cited trends like waiving co-payments for COVID testing and treatment and paying for telemedicine visits, some of which the government has mandated be covered.

“From the very beginning,” AHIP CEO Matt Eyles said, “health-insurance providers have focused on being part of the solution.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Senior Planning

Five Things to Know About Long-term-care Insurance


By the time you reach 65, chances are about 50/50 that you’ll require paid long-term care (LTC) someday. If you pay out of pocket, you’ll spend $140,000 on average. Yet you probably haven’t planned for that financial risk. Only 7.2 million or so Americans have LTC insurance, which covers many of the costs of a nursing home, assisted living, or in-home care — expenses that aren’t covered by Medicare.

“Long-term care is the unsolved problem for so many people,” said Christine Benz, director of Personal Finance at Morningstar, an investment research firm in Chicago. Here’s what you need to know about long-term-care insurance today.

1. Traditional policies have fewer fans. For years, long-term-care insurance entailed paying an annual premium in return for financial assistance if you ever needed help with day-to-day activities such as bathing, dressing, and eating meals. Typical terms today include a daily benefit for nursing-home coverage, a waiting period of about three months before insurance kicks in, and a maximum of three years’ worth of coverage.

“This is a classic story of market failure. No one wants to buy insurance, and no one wants to sell it.”

But these stand-alone LTC policies have had a troubled history of premium spikes and insurer losses, thanks in part to faulty forecasts by insurers of the amount of care they’d be on the hook for. Sales have fallen sharply. While more than 100 insurers sold policies in the 1990s, now fewer than 15 do. “This is a classic story of market failure,” said Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, and the author of Caring for Our Parents. “No one wants to buy insurance, and no one wants to sell it.”

2. You might not need insurance  …  but you need a plan. Premiums for LTC policies average $2,700 a year, according to the industry research firm LifePlans. That puts the coverage out of reach for many Americans. (One bright spot for spouses: discounts for couples are common —  typically 30% off the price of policies bought separately.)

If your assets are few, you may eventually be able to cover LTC costs via Medicaid, available only if you’re impoverished; if you have lots of money saved, you likely can pay for future care out of pocket. But weigh factors other than cash: do you have home equity you could tap? Nearby children who can be counted on to pitch in? Or do you have a family history of dementia that puts you at higher risk of needing care?

3. There’s a new insurance in town. As traditional LTC insurance sputters, another policy is taking off: whole life insurance that you can draw from for long-term care. Unlike the older variety of LTC insurance, these ‘hybrid’ policies will return money to your heirs even if you don’t end up needing long-term care. You don’t run traditional policies’ risk of a rate hike because you lock in your premium up front. If you’re older or have health problems, you may be more likely to qualify.

4. But old-school policies are cheaper. If all you want is cost-effective coverage — even if that means nothing back if you never need help — traditional LTC insurance has the edge. “Hybrid policies are usually two to three times more expensive than traditional insurance for the same long-term care benefits,” said Scott Olson, an insurance agent and co-owner of LTCShop.com in Camano Island, Wash. With hybrids, you’re paying extra just for the guarantee of getting money back.

A hybrid policy may make the most sense if your alternative is to use your savings, or if you have another whole-life policy with a large cash value.

5. Speed and smart shopping pay off. If you want insurance, start looking in your 50s or early 60s, before premiums rise sharply or worsening health rules out robust coverage. “Every year you delay, it will be more expensive,” Olson said. Initial premiums at age 65, for example, are 8% to 10% higher than those for new customers who are 64.

As for where to shop, seek out an independent agent who sells policies from multiple companies rather than a single insurer. For extra expertise and a wider choice of policies, Olson suggests looking for agents able to sell what are known as long-term-care partnership policies — part of a national program that has continuing-education requirements for insurance professionals.

Ellen Stark, a former deputy editor of Money, has written about personal finance for more than 20 years.

Insurance Special Coverage

Sticker Shock

Business-interruption insurance should be a simple idea to explain. But in the era of COVID-19, it has become a thorny topic.

“It is coverage that most businesses have as part of their insurance program; basically, it’s one of the key components to an insurance portfolio for a business,” said John Dowd Jr., president and CEO of the Dowd Agencies. “A covered loss is defined as physical damage to your property or on your property.”

He noted, as one example, a fire that causes a shutdown until repairs are made, with the insurance payout allowing the business owner to pay rent, taxes, and in some cases wages and benefits. “It also covers loss of property, which is a very important coverage.”

But not every event is covered, he noted, and that’s the rub lately among business owners who would like business-interruption insurance to cover losses from the pandemic-related economic shutdown — and lawmakers in several states, including Massachusetts, are pushing to enshrine such losses in the coverage.

“Obviously COVID isn’t covered — the loss that triggers business interruption has to be the result of physical damage to the property,” Dowd reiterated. “The problem with COVID is that’s not physical damage; it’s a virus. It’s specifically excluded, like other transmittable diseases. The way it’s worded, it’s not a coverage situation. As a matter of fact, the insurance industry cannot cover something like that because they can’t estimate the catastrophic potential of such a situation.”

That didn’t stop 39 Massachusetts legislators from co-sponsoring a bill earlier this spring titled “An Act Concerning Business Interruption Insurance,” calling for business-interruption coverage for losses due to “directly or indirectly resulting from the global pandemic known as COVID-19, including all mutated forms of the COVID-19 virus.”

Moreover, the bill asserts, “no insurer in the Commonwealth may deny a claim for the loss of use and occupancy and business interruption on account of COVID-19 being a virus (even if the relevant insurance policy excludes losses resulting from viruses), or there being no physical damage to the property of the insured or to any other relevant property.”

The legislation applies to policies issued to businesses with 150 or fewer full-time employees, and insurance companies can apply to the commissioner of the Division of Insurance for relief and reimbursement of amounts paid on claims through a fund created by the act, subject to eligibility and reimbursement procedures to be established by the commissioner.

John Dowd Jr.

John Dowd Jr.

“The way it’s worded, it’s not a coverage situation. As a matter of fact, the insurance industry cannot cover something like that because they can’t estimate the catastrophic potential of such a situation.”

Such relief would be needed, as Dowd demonstrated with a little math. He noted that, if business-interruption insurance was triggered by COVID-19 for all businesses with fewer than 100 employees, the cost would be between $280 billion and $350 billion — per month. “Our collective surplus of all insurance companies is somewhere between $800 billion and $900 billion. In three months, the industry would be insolvent.”

Having said that, he noted that pandemic coverage is already available — a development that emerged over the past decade following SARS and other global threats. For example, the organization that operates the Wimbledon tennis tournament bought such a policy, which costs more than $1 million a year, but when this year’s event was canceled, the policy paid out $15 million.

Impossible Costs

State legislation is a different matter, of course, aiming to reshape the very nature of business-interruption insurance. New Jersey lawmakers proposed and defeated such a bill this spring, “presumably because they looked into the potential insolvency of insurance carriers,” Dowd said. “And if people can’t buy insurance, what happens to our economy?”

Carl Bloomfield, managing director at the Graham Co., a Philadelphia-based insurance brokerage, recently told Insurance Business America that, while more than a half-dozen states that have proposed this type of legislation, he doesn’t expect the bills to pass.

“Doing it through state legislation would be very detrimental to the country on a go-forward basis from the aspect of overturning centuries of contract law,” he noted. “If you start upsetting the precedent of contract law that’s been established for centuries, that creates a very dangerous environment for all businesses because there’ll be no certainty around something that’s in the contract today, but could be overturned in court.”

If the Massachusetts bill becomes law, constitutional challenges are certain, writes Owen Gallagher, publisher of Agency Checklists, a news source for the Massachusetts insurance industry.

“Carriers would basically take the claims, get documentation that there was actually loss of income or profit, determine if there are covered claims or not, and then the federal government would pay the bill.”

The rewriting of existing insurance contracts, as proposed by this legislation, he notes, would raise constitutional questions under the U.S. Constitution’s contract clause.

“As members of a regulated industry, insurance companies have not fared well in contesting state legislative or regulatory action claiming a constitutional violation of the contracts clause. The United States Supreme Court has upheld laws impairing contracts based on a state promoting public welfare. However, this legislation may be one of the very few laws that fails that minimal test based on its blatant revision of existing insurance contracts for a limited class of insureds.”

The second constitutional challenge arises under the Constitution’s takings clause, which states that private property cannot be taken for public use without just compensation.

“Insurers have had some success contesting laws where a state’s regulatory mandates go too far and amount to a confiscation of property,” Gallagher notes. “In this case, the proposed law creates new obligations that take money from insurance companies and transfers it to small businesses that have suffered economic loss because of state action. It is difficult to see how these insurers would not have had their property taken for a public purpose in violation of the Constitution.”

Dowd sees the U.S. government eventually negotiating a coverage cap for pandemic events much like it did with terrorism in the years following 9/11. “The insurance industry is saying, ‘OK, in the future, we’re willing to participate, but we need a cap, like $250 million, which is the most the insurance industry can absorb for a pandemic, and everything over that, the federal government has to pay.’

“So they’re in the throes of negotiating that,” he said, adding that carrier involvement would likely be voluntary. “That makes sense, as a lot of the smaller mutual insurance companies don’t have nearly the surplus that the Travelers and Liberty Mutuals have. But a lot has to be sorted out.”

A Better Plan?

Dowd, who serves on the board of the Massachusetts Assoc. of Insurance Agents, said that organization backs an idea that would cast insurers in more of a support role to the government on pandemic claims as they relate to business interruption.

“Carriers would basically take the claims, get documentation that there was actually loss of income or profit, determine if there are covered claims or not, and then the federal government would pay the bill,” he explained. “We think that’s a good idea, rather than throw out stimulus money to companies that may not need it, that may not experience a loss of income. Instead, we’d have people file, have their experience validated, and get paid based on need — not an assumption that every small business needs it.”

Such a plan is being considered in the fifth stimulus bill being kicked around in Congress, he added, which makes more sense than forcing insurers to cover for losses they never considered.

“We just don’t have the financial wherewithal to pay that financial bill. We’d be out of business,” Dowd said. “But if we can offer services at an agency level and carrier level, review the claims, and validate the claims, we think that has some merit.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]


Deepening Its Roots

Timm Marini, president of Personal Lines

When FieldEddy Insurance entered the HUB International family a little over five years ago, it traded a name with a rich regional history for one backed by the resources of a large corporation. The result has been the best of both worlds — HUB’s clout improves the office’s ability to grow specific niches through talent development, while the company is still able to focus on local needs with an emphasis on building deeper relationships with customers.

The insurance company known as FieldEddy had more than 160 years of history and a still-growing geographic footprint in Western Mass. when it became part of the HUB International family in 2014.

It’s a move that simply made sense at the time, Timm Marini said, and he feels even more strongly about that five years later.

“It’s such a natural fit for us,” said Marini, president of Personal Lines at HUB International New England in East Longmeadow. “There’s a cultural mesh in that our focus and HUB’s focus has always been in delighting the customer.”

Several years ago, FieldEddy employees were tasked with coming up with tools and resources they needed to better ‘delight’ those customers, Marini recalled. “We got to about seven of them and looked at each other and said, ‘we’re going to go bankrupt trying to buy all this and do all this on our own.’ So we plugged into HUB, and that’s when we really became the market leader.”

While FieldEddy had grown dramatically through acquisition over the previous two decades, under the HUB name, the company took a more organic approach, Marini told BusinessWest, adding talent in specific growth areas, from cybersecurity to healthcare (in the wake of health-insurance reform in the Bay State, followed by the Affordable Care Act nationally).

But last year, it was back on the acquisition trail, purchasing the Insurance Center of New England in Agawam — a move, Marini said, that represented the same sort of ‘cultural mesh’ that FieldEddy and HUB did five years ago.

“They had some great talent on their team and a couple of niche markets that made sense for us,” he said. “We’re not just buying to get big. We’re buying to get better. If we can buy an organization or invest in an organization that helps us get better, that’s what HUB’s acquisition strategy country-wide is.”

“When there’s a catastropic event — a hurricane, a tornado — HUB is ready, and we’re communicating to our customers, we’re communicating to the marketplace, and we’re giving them better data than what you’d receive in the news. We’re getting ready for the event.”

The company undergoes a due-diligence process before making an offer, he explained, one that involves three questions. “Number one, is it a good fit? Number two, are they bringing something to the party to make us better? And number three, can we make it grow?

“This was a great cultural fit, with really educated people — just good, solid folks. That first piece of it was a home run,” Marini went on. “Then, they have talent that we didn’t have, and we’re getting that talent. HUB wants to bring levels of expertise and be able to delight our customers differently. We want different people on our teams, different resources available to us, that will help our customers.”

For this issue’s focus on insurance, Marini talked about how HUB continues to expand both its reach and its knowledge base in numerous ways.

Hub of Activity

HUB itself has been around only since 1998, with its first operations in Canada and Chicago. Its first acquisition after that was CJ McCarthy Insurance Agency in Wilmington, Mass. in 2000. It picked up FieldEddy 14 years later.

Today, Marini said, HUB is the largest independently owned agency in New England, the largest personal-lines agency in the country, and the fifth-largest agency in the U.S. overall. So, while the firm operates autonomously with local decision making, it does so with plenty of clout behind it.

“A lot of our talent investments, we could never do on our own,” he said, citing growth in areas like risk services and loss control, claims advocacy, and underwriters who specialize in specific niches.

Legalization of marijuana is one example. “We’ve made pretty significant investments in educating our brokers across the country and making sure we can handle the unique needs of that industry.”

As another example, “on the health side, we’re asking, ‘what do we need to do better for the customer?’ We’ve invested in health and wellness folks, people who can help mitigate exposures and help us all be healthier … we’ve invested in actuaries, underwriters, data-analytics experts, just to help carve out the information and make sure the pricing we receive from insurance carriers is the right one for our customers.”

“I believe we’ve tried to move away from just the transactional side of things. Price is important, coverage is more important, but most important is being that advocate — not just when the negative or adverse thing happens, but being there through the process, through the life of the product that you’re talking about. It’s not just the transaction.”

And in times of emergency, HUB brings more to the table than insurance, he added.

“When there’s a catastropic event — a hurricane, a tornado — HUB is ready, and we’re communicating to our customers, we’re communicating to the marketplace, and we’re giving them better data than what you’d receive in the news. We’re getting ready for the event.”

When a hurricane devastated Bermuda last year, he noted, “we had $10 million homeowner customers on the island. And when that happened, we had barges filled with emergency-care stuff out there. HUB coordinated it — paid for by us, by our carrier partners — and it had nothing to do with insurance, just to do with taking care of people.

“Again, as a small independent, we didn’t have the resources to do that,” he went on. “That’s really cool. To be able to communicate that and see it in action, it puts me to bed thinking we made the right decision five years ago.”

In general, Marini said, being part of a large national company is a healthy balance between local autonomy and broader resources.

“The budget is more regional and filters across, but my team is plugged into the process. We have growth initiatives and retention initiatives — again, focused on delighting the customer,” he told BusinessWest. “We say, ‘grow well, grow big, but don’t just be big — be great at what you do.’ And the greatness comes from our customer feedback.”

Knowledge Is Power

HUB International New England has also bolstered its educational outreach in recent years. For example, it recently sponsored a seminar with about 350 business customers about the new employee leave laws in Massachusetts, featuring Bill Alpine, director of the Commonwealth’s Department of Family and Medical Leave, and two attorneys.

“That whole educational process takes a real investment in your people, in your talent. And that’s one of the benefits of HUB,” he said, adding that the company offers a ‘HUB University’ program in Chicago, where employees are trained in specific industries and niches to be better able to serve certain types of customers.

“It could be as simple as one individual or one family that owns one home, or a high-net-worth individual with millions of dollars of assets, all the way to the largest corporations in the world,” he said. “We educate each one of those folks and determine their needs through an assessment, a conversation. It’s not just selling them a product, it’s really finding a solution — and having them understand up front what they’re buying.”

All insurance, after all, is assessing risk and deciding how to mitigate and cover it, he went on. Someone in a flood zone might decide, based on not having a flood in the past 100 years, that they’re OK with not covering that, but at least they’ve had the conversation.

“It’s an educated buying decision based on some expertise we bring to the table. It’s not just trying to sell a policy,” Marini said. “And how do you get there? We have to educate our employees, and they educate our customers. It’s a shared conversation, not a unilateral conversation.”

HUB takes part in national summits with industry experts as well, talking about hot trends and digging into coverage details, such as how to protect, say, someone’s vast wine collection from California wildfires. That’s a first-world problem to be sure, he noted, but if it’s something of value to the customer, then it’s important to HUB.

“Each person has specific things that are special to them,” he told BusinessWest. “Our responsibility is to find the right levels of protection for them.”

That involves forging relationships, he added.

“I think about some of the partnerships I have personally. The same guy has made my suits for 28 years. The same guy cut my hair for 34 years. Those are personal relationships — yes, they provide a service, and insurance is a service — but they’re real, personal relationships that bring different conversations than you have with your friends and your other acquaintances.

“I believe we’ve tried to move away from just the transactional side of things,” he continued. “Price is important, coverage is more important, but most important is being that advocate — not just when the negative or adverse thing happens, but being there through the process, through the life of the product that you’re talking about. It’s not just the transaction.”

Community Ties

Marini says HUB International New England has long maintained relationships of another kind as well — with the nonprofits and community organizations it supports with money, time, energy, and expertise.

“I still sit on six nonprofit organizations. It’s all about giving back to the community,” he said, adding that employees are encouraged to get involved as well, even if it overlaps with work time. “We encourage that; we don’t count it against their time. It’s good for our organization. We want to be in the community, frankly. It’s what we are. And HUB is the exact same way. It’s an expected part of the culture.

“We encourage everyone in the organization to be involved. It’s rewarded, not penalized,” he went on. “After all, this is a people business. We earn a lot of money, and we invest a lot of money. That’s something I’m proud of.”


Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]


Beyond the Bottom Line

If a customer wants insufficient coverage, Mark Lussier says, he or she should at least have a conversation about it and understand the risk.

Mark Lussier tells the story of a newly licensed driver backing out of her driveway in South Hadley who didn’t see the 85-year-old walking along the sidewalk. They met, and he fractured his hip and was in rehab for six months.

“Fortunately, the lawyers weren’t bloodthirsty, and they settled for the policy limit for bodily injury,” said the co-owner of Lussier Insurance in West Springfield, noting that, too often, lawyers aim for the maximum award, putting the defendant’s house and savings at risk.

Yet, “in its infinite wisdom, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has determined that $20,000 of bodily-injury coverage is all you need to be legal,” he told BusinessWest.

Then there’s property-damage coverage on auto-insurance policies, which has a minimum requirement of $5,000. “I had a case not too long ago where someone hit a hydrant and a parked car, and then a porch. I’m guessing $5,000 wasn’t enough to pay for all that stuff. But it’s interesting to see how many people have only $5,000 for property damage.”

Many bare-bones policies come from the direct writers like Geico and Progressive that saturate the airwaves with ads focused only on premium price. But, in reality, insurance customers can get policies for not much more than the bare-bones pricing of the online marketers, but with much better coverage, explained in detail, simply because of the flexibility Massachusetts insurers have enjoyed over the past 12 years — flexibility that, for the most part, didn’t exist before.

Indeed, for much of the past century, auto-insurance rates in Massachusetts were set by the state Division of Insurance. Anyone who requested a premium quote for a certain level of coverage would receive the same price from any number of companies, unless they were eligible for a group discount.

Managed competition, which began in 2008, allows insurance companies to offer their own rates. Although these rates may vary, they must still be approved by the Division of Insurance — hence the term ‘managed.’ The result is that Massachusetts drivers are able to compare the different rates, benefits, and services offered by the insurance companies competing for their business.

“So many people are gathering information online without talking to the agent to explain the coverage, so they don’t understand at all what they’re purchasing. It’s the same old story,” said Trish Vassallo, director of Operations at Encharter Insurance in Amherst.

And, while $5,000 won’t cover the cost of a telephone pole or guardrail, injuring a person with one’s car and being undercovered is usually far worse, she explained. But that doesn’t have to be the case, as the premium difference between $100,000 and $250,000 in coverage can be as low as $10 per year — well worth the peace of mind.

Trish Vassallo

“I don’t think there’s an agent in Massachusetts who doesn’t welcome clients calling and talking to them. We like getting away from billing questions and talking about the nuts and bolts of insurance. It’s what we live for — sharing knowledge. It’s so important to make sure you understand everything you’re getting. You don’t want to learn about it after a loss.”

“That’s what we explain to them. Accidents happen, and if a building is hit, $250,000 might not be enough, but it certainly gets you closer,” she said, adding that, if a pedestrian is hit and successfully sues, $100,000 isn’t going to cover the costs.

Auto insurance, like all personal lines, is all about understanding risks and making an educated decision on what one’s comfort level is, she said — and not just settling for the lowest bottom-line price.

Bundle of Options

Under managed competition, carriers have been able to offer individualized add-ons and rider endorsements, from accident forgiveness to gap coverages to good-student discounts, and local agents say it’s important to have a conversation to get the best price for the coverage that’s actually sufficient.

“Today’s market is all about packaging and bundling insurance, and when you shop just one product, you sell yourself short in the money game,” Vassallo said.

To that end, she said, picking up the phone and talking to an agent is far superior to pressing a few buttons online.

“It’s about educating yourself, and I don’t think there’s an agent in Massachusetts who doesn’t welcome clients calling and talking to them. We like getting away from billing questions and talking about the nuts and bolts of insurance. It’s what we live for — sharing knowledge. It’s so important to make sure you understand everything you’re getting. You don’t want to learn about it after a loss.”

Part of that education, Lussier added, is understanding what’s most important to insure.

“Why buy auto insurance? In the consumer’s mind, it’s to protect the car; that’s the thing they care about,” he said. “I was the same way when I was a brand-new driver. ‘Give me what I need, whatever’ — until you have a claim. One thing I hear is, ‘I thought I had coverage for that.’”

Under the prior, regulated system, insurance providers were required to apply specific surcharges for certain accidents and traffic violations. Now, insurance companies are permitted to develop their own rules, subject to state approval, for imposing surcharges for at-fault accidents and traffic violations.

They can also include a raft of incentives, such as bundling auto and home insurance when both policies are bought from the same carrier, offering multi-car discounts or AAA membership credits, or using disappearing deductibles to reward drivers for not having accidents over a long period of time.

Then there are away-from-home discounts for college students who are on their parents’ policies, yet spend much of the year away from home without access to the family car.

“A newly licensed driver can add $800 to $3,000 to a premium, depending on whether they have their own car or not,” Lussier said. “A good-student discount can take some bite off that, and then you can get a discount while they’re away at school. Some companies require you to be at least 100 miles away to give you the discount, some only 25.”

What parents should not do in that situation, Vassallo said, is take their child off the policy completely to save some money.

“You don’t want to do that — God forbid he gets in his roommate’s car and gets into an accident, and the roommate has minimal [coverage] limits, and now the family is looking at potential harm to their assets. Companies can give discounts for students who go off to college, but you should keep them on the policy. Even though they’re not a regular driver anymore, it still provides protection.”

Limited Thinking

One rule of thumb when it comes to liability and coverage, Lussier said, is to ask, ‘how much am I worth?’

“If I’ve got a house, a savings account, a 401(k), I have to protect that with bodily-injury [coverage], then $20,000 isn’t going to be good enough,” he told BusinessWest, noting that, often, the difference between coverage levels doesn’t translate to all that much in the annual premium. For instance, he asked, what if the difference between $100,000 and $300,000 is just $80 per year?

“Do you want to take a risk for 80 bucks a year? When an accident happens, we want to know that we had the discussion and that you’re OK with understanding the risk after considering your driving habits and where you drive and what you have to protect,” he explained. “You’re saving 80 bucks to have crappy limits. We can keep your crappy limits, but we want you to tell us that’s what you want.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

This year the GBMP conference turns its focus on recognizing the re-emergence of Total Employee Involvement (TEI) as the key to unlocking the full benefits of Lean transformation. In the early days of Lean implementation, company involvement of all employees at all levels was identified as the keystone to Lean. TEI recognized the innate capabilities and desire of employees to always make things better.

But, in the early 90’s, as Lean tools were popularized, the focus on broad employee involvement diminished and was replaced by subject matter experts and swat teams. New jobs were created to concentrate the tasks of problem solving and improvement in the hands of just a small segment of employees. But now, organizations seeking to change their culture are recognizing that this must involve everyone.

The Northeast Lean Conference was created by the non-profit GBMP to provide information and inspiration to Lean practitioners – from those just starting out to seasoned Lean leaders from the manufacturing, healthcare, service and other vital industry sectors. ​The practical learning format features exceptional keynote and breakout presentations, interdepartmental panels, peer-to-peer discussions, hands-on simulations, interactive learning and sharing, and unlimited networking opportunities. Meet more than 500 passionate Lean, Six Sigma and Continuous Improvement professionals just like you.


Shelter from the Storm

In the insurance world, an umbrella policy is exactly what it sounds like, sitting atop home, auto, and business insurance coverage and providing excess protection against liability risks. What is less clear, area insurance experts say, is why more people don’t avail themselves of this relatively inexpensive vehicle. After all, life’s storms can strike at any time, and when they do, no one wants to be totally exposed.

Even the best intentions can’t always fend off an expensive lawsuit, said John Dowd, president and CEO of the Dowd Agencies in Holyoke. Take a field trip, for example.

“If you or your spouse has volunteered to chaperone your kid’s school field trip to an amusement park, you both can be held legally responsible for anything that goes wrong on the trip,” he explained. “If a child under your care is injured during the excursion, that child’s parents might try to sue you for damages.”

Which could wind up being a trickier situation than simply loading that child into one’s own car and crashing it — because the driver’s auto-insurance policy covers bodily injury. But what about situations like that field trip — what policy covers that?

It’s just one example, Dowd said, of why an umbrella policy is a good idea for most people. “A personal umbrella policy can provide coverage for such potential incidents, allowing you to chaperone a trip without worrying about potential financial risks.”

An umbrella policy — sometimes referred to as ‘family insurance,’ he noted — essentially sits atop existing auto and homeowners policies to deliver an additional layer of protection, especially against catastrophic liability loss.

“I would like to see anybody who has any net worth — say, more than $100,000, which would include most homeowners these days — to have a personal umbrella,” said Mark Lussier, who co-owns Lussier Insurance in West Springfield.

“The idea behind a personal umbrella is, you want to cover your net worth. When I get a phone call from someone who says, ‘I have this umbrella, but I don’t really need it,’ I say, ‘if somebody were to sue you for everything you were worth, is what you have on your home or auto policy enough?’”

Dowd noted that the coverage from a personal umbrella policy is wide-reaching, providing protection for scenarios not covered by a typical home or auto policy. For instance, if a family member rents a snowmobile on vacation and is involved in an accident, the umbrella policy may help pay for the cost of repairs and medical bills of the injured parties.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of an umbrella policy, Lussier said, is its cost — maybe $250 or $300 per year for $1 million in coverage, with additional coverage available beyond that, typically in increments of $1 million. “I have a couple of clients who’ve got $5 million umbrellas because their net worth justifies the extra cost.”

“The idea behind a personal umbrella is, you want to cover your net worth. When I get a phone call from someone who says, ‘I have this umbrella, but I don’t really need it,’ I say, ‘if somebody were to sue you for everything you were worth, is what you have on your home or auto policy enough?’”

That’s on top of legal defense fees, which insurers cover as part of any policy. “So, if the unimaginable happens and you’re called by Mark E. Salomone, you have peace of mind knowing your insurance is going to defend you as well as pay anything you’re legally responsible for.”

Mark Lussier

Mark Lussier says the inexpensive cost of a personal umbrella policy, coupled with the many scenarios it covers, present a strong argument for buying one.

In addition, the umbrella is worldwide coverage. “So you can be vacationing in Europe, and if someone is injured because of something you’re responsible for, your umbrella is going to respond,” Lussier said.

Bill Trudeau, president of the Insurance Center of New England in Agawam, said he draws a simple diagram to explain the umbrella concept to customers, with policies like home and auto represented by rectangles, and the umbrella hovering over all of them.

“You can imagine a multi-fatality accident, where the claims might easily surpass $1 million. If an accident is deemed your fault, you may run out of insurance,” he explained. “But if you’ve bought a $2 million umbrella to go on top of a $1 million policy, now you have $3 million in protection in that instance. It’s a policy for excess liability claims — product liability, premises liability, bodily injury, property damage, all kinds of claims. It’s one policy, and you can decide how much protection you want to buy.”

Surprising Circumstances

Lussier stressed that umbrella coverage isn’t technically coverage the policy holder doesn’t already have. “You can’t get umbrella unless you have the underlying policy.”

While some may ask why not just increase coverage on existing home and auto policies, he pointed to the broad nature of umbrella protection, and, again, its cost.

“Many times, to buy more coverage under the basic policy begins to beg the issue of why you shouldn’t have the umbrella. I can have a $1 million umbrella for three cars and two houses for $250 a year. So it’s cheap.”

In Massachusetts, Dowd explained, most umbrella policies provide coverage for the policy holder and their immediate family members living in the same household, with some exceptions. And he listed a few scenarios where that wide net may come in handy.

For example, “if a dog attacks a guest in your home, you may be responsible for any medical bills,” he explained. Even a small bite could end up costing thousands of dollars, and, while some homeowners insurance policies provide liability coverage for dog bites, they typically restrict what breeds are covered. “If your policy excludes your dog’s breed, umbrella insurance may help cover any financial responsibility you have for the incident.”

As another example, if a recently licensed teenager causes a multi-vehicle auto accident, the resulting financial liability could be expensive. “While a single-car accident likely won’t exhaust your auto-insurance policy, a multi-car accident might exceed the coverage,” he said. “Personal umbrella insurance can cover expenses beyond those covered in your auto policy.”

One hindrance to purchasing umbrella coverage, Lussier noted, is that the holder must first increase his or her automobile bodily-injury coverage to $250,000 — and that floor can rise to $500,000 for older drivers. “In some cases, especially with multiple cars, that can be unaffordable. People say, ‘I can’t allocate that risk transfer; I’d rather retain the risk myself and take my chances.’ And that’s really what insurance is all about — it’s a transfer of risk.”

Then there’s something called ‘personal-injury coverage,’ Lussier said, which is different from bodily injury, instead referring to libel, slander, false arrest, and defamation of character. And this has become a minefield in the age of social media.

“Many times, to buy more coverage under the basic policy begins to beg the issue of why you shouldn’t have the umbrella. I can have a $1 million umbrella for three cars and two houses for $250 a year. So it’s cheap.”

“Some people, especially teens, don’t fully comprehend the power of social media,” Dowd said. “If your child makes a disparaging remark or unsubstantiated claim about someone on social media, that person might try to sue for libel.”

An umbrella policy may provide coverage for such situations, with most policies extending coverage to online statements. “Aside from just physical damage, umbrella protection can provide financial assistance if you’re being sued for libel or slander.”

Lussier agreed that this is a significant issue in an era when everyone is quick with a camera, and when images, videos, and statements online can live forever.

“Depending on your means, you can find yourself liable for substantial sums,” he told BusinessWest. “Nowadays, something said innocuously or without much thought can be a big deal. It goes viral, and the next thing you know, you’re saying, ‘I didn’t really mean it the way it was taken, but if I’d have known it would go that far, I would’ve kept my mouth shut.’ And if you put it in writing, you can make it even worse.”

Cost of Doing Business

Clearly, personal umbrella policies cover a wide net of possibilities. But it can be tricky when they cross over into the business realm. Lussier cited the example of a photographer who closes his studio and moves his enterprise into his house. “Now his house is a business exposure, and an umbrella excludes business exposures.”

That’s where a business umbrella comes in, working in much the same way a personal umbrella does, but covering liability risks related to a business.

Bill Trudeau

Bill Trudeau says growing businesses should continually reassess what level of coverage they need from an umbrella policy.

“If you have a relationship with your broker, they’re likely to offer you umbrella liability,” Trudeau said of business owners. “If you’re doing a review of your insurance, it’s something almost any competent broker brings up. As your business grows, it would be part of the basics of insurance coverage.”

The nature of the business would impact the risk exposure and, hence, the level of coverage needed, he noted. While a $1 million umbrella might be fine for a storefront shoe store or florist, a business owner with a fleet of heavy trucks would likely need more.

“We’re hoping not to scare people, but we want them to make realistic choices,” he said. “And a lot of times, those choices are informed by some requirement from the place you’re doing business with, like a contractor taking on bigger jobs, like a casino or office tower or hotel chain. The risk managers for those entities tend to have a requirement for higher limits of liability. So, like it or not, if you want to play in that area and do business with these kinds of clients, you probably have to buy an umbrella of some sort.”

Fame is a factor, too, Lussier said — and often results in higher rates per million of coverage, because famous people are seen as bigger targets for lawsuits.

“If you’re a high-profile person, like a news anchor, you won’t get an inexpensive umbrella, because of the higher exposure,” he explained. “If we’re selling you cheap insurance, we’re basically gambling that you’re never going to use it. That’s really what insurance is all about. The most people participate for the least amount of risk, so we can then price it accordingly.”

In addition, the level of coverage should reflect not only one’s net worth, but future earning potential as well. A doctor who just graduated from medical school and plans a career in brain surgery might have little more than debt to show right now, but a lawsuit could put significant future earnings at risk.

In the end, Trudeau said, umbrella coverage can bring peace of mind in myriad scenarios.

“If something’s gone wrong in your business — someone went through a stop sign, something terrible happened, some member of the public is injured badly, and your company is sued for $5 million — you can take some comfort: ‘I bought insurance, and I’m able to pay what people wanted to negotiate without having to declare bankruptcy.’ It’s still awful, but you have that small comfort, as opposed to sitting there wondering what to do.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]


Lines of Defense

While major data breaches at national companies justifiably make news, small businesses may not recognize that hackers target businesses of all sizes and types. But awareness is on the rise, especially as insurance companies hone their products aimed at protecting against cyber threats — and help clients understand that buying insurance is only one line of defense, and that complete protection requires in-house diligence, too.

When is cybercrime not cybercrime?

When it falls under the broad category of something called ‘social engineering,’ said Bill Trudeau, president and CEO of the Insurance Center of New England.

That term refers to a broad range of ways to manipulate people into giving up confidential information, or even money. It can include anything from phishing schemes to leaving a flash drive on the ground, hoping someone will find it and load it onto their computer out of curiosity, thereby installing malware on their company’s network.

Or say, Trudeau suggested, a CFO receives an e-mail he thinks is from the company CEO, reading, “we worked out a new deal with ABC Company. Wire them a $20,000 deposit; I’ll have full details when I return.”

“If they get your CFO to wire money to an unknown source, it’s not really theft because they did it voluntarily; it was a trick,” Trudeau said. More importantly, the loss would not be covered by typical cyber liability insurance, because it’s not technically a cybercrime, which involves the perpetrator physically hacking a network, not conning someone else into doing it. Instead, the client would need a fraud endorsement on its insurance policy.

“Social engineering is cropping up more, spreading like a pandemic,” Trudeau said. “Now, enough bookkeepers have been embarrassed or fired that, when they see an e-mail like this, they usually say, ‘wait, I’m not falling for this.’”

But the ones who do succumb to social engineering make it abundantly clear that, while cyber liability insurance is still an important part of a company’s defense against risk, just as important is a culture that trains employees in avoiding being conned.

“Social engineering is a relatively new term that refers to illegal fund transfer or diversion,” said John Dowd Jr., president of the Dowd Insurance Agency. “You can also unwittingly introduce a virus to a third party. This virus may have been put on your website by someone without you knowing it, and when people go onto your website, they get infected … and it’s your fault.”

That’s not to say cybercrime the way most people understand it — a hacker breaking in and exposing confidential data, for example — isn’t still a major problem, one that companies need to work with their insurance agents to cover. While historic breaches like Target in 2013, with 70 million customer records exposed, make headlines, the reality is that most breaches occur in businesses with 100 or fewer employees.

According to the latest report by Cybint Solutions, which provides cybersecurity education and training solutions to businesses and organizations, a hacker attack occurs every 39 seconds, affecting one in three Americans each year.

Bill Trudeau

Bill Trudeau says businesses need to take stock of exactly what data is at risk, and how damaging it would be to have it exposed, in order to craft a plan of defense.

In 2016, 95% of breached records came from three industries: government, retail, and technology. However, 64% of all companies have experienced web-based attacks, and 43% of cyberattacks targeted small businesses. Meanwhile, 62% experienced phishing and social-engineering attacks.

The threat is growing due to the increasingly interconnected nature of the world today, Cybint notes. According to a recent Symantec Internet Security threat report, there are 25 connected devices per 100 inhabitants in the U.S. By 2020, there will be roughly 200 billion connected devices.

The total cost for cybercrime committed globally has added up to $100 billion, Cybint adds. “Don’t think that all that money comes from hackers targeting corporations, banks, or wealthy celebrities,” the report notes. “Individual users like you and me are also targets. As long as you’re connected to the Internet, you can become a victim of cyberattacks.”

It’s concerning, the report notes, that only 38% of global organizations claim they are prepared to handle a sophisticated cyber attack.

“Many businesses, by and large, do not manage the threat as well as they should,” Dowd told BusinessWest. “This could be due to lack of understanding the true exposure and financial implications of a breach. Certain businesses have a greater exposure than others, but any business that stores personal information or uses a computer has the potential for a claim.”

Growing Costs

While the average cost for each lost or stolen record containing sensitive and confidential information increased 4.8% last year, to $148, according to IBM’s annual “Cost of a Data Breach” report, Trudeau said companies need to individually assess what they have at stake.

“You’ve got to look at this on a granular level,” he said. “What data do you have? What data-breach exposure do you have? Do you store information that’s a concern?”

The answer to that question could vary by quite a bit. “You might have blueprints or schematics, designs, but how critical is it? Some might shake their heads and say, ‘no one cares; it’s on the Internet, so it’s not top secret.’ But if a law firm’s files are stolen, there could be embarrassment and reputation risk. You have to decide what you’re trying to accomplish.”

Cyber liability coverage typically protects against a wide range of losses that businesses may suffer directly or cause to others, and these come in two forms: first-party and third-party losses. Third-party losses involve regulatory fines and lawsuits brought by affected customers, while first-party losses are what the business itself incurs up front, such as business-income loss, data-retrieval services, downtime, and notification of customers, to name a few.

The costs to businesses associated with a data breach, from lawsuits to regulatory fines to notification expense, can be staggering, Dowd noted, and insurance companies have responded with new policy forms that protect against many cyberthreats that customers may never have heard of.

“Policies today are much broader than they used to be out of necessity — the crooks keep coming up with unique ways to hack into your computers and steal information,” he said. “In some cases, they will charge you a ransom to return the information they stole from you. Insurance policies can cover all of the costs associated with a breach, including fines and penalties.”

When a data breach does occur, how a company responds up front — self-reporting to authorities and having a turn-key response — can reduce its liability. In fact, carriers that specialize in this type of coverage, like Beazley and Chubb, have turn-key response operations as part of the policy.

“Social engineering is cropping up more, spreading like a pandemic. Now, enough bookkeepers have been embarrassed or fired that, when they see an e-mail like this, they usually say, ‘wait, I’m not falling for this.’”

Immediately notifying victims and paying for identify-theft-prevention services can help avoid the liability costs that typically outweigh the first-party losses, Trudeau added. “You need liability coverage, but you hope you’ll never have to use that if you handle everything correctly with the victims.”

Businesses need to have not only insurance against cybercrime, but a plan of defense in case something does occur, Dowd said. “Virtually no one is immune from this danger. The laws on the books today are very strict with regard to protecting personal information, whether it is your clients or your employees.”

In response, according to the Cybint report, approximately $1 trillion is expected to be spent globally on cybersecurity from 2017 to 2021. Meanwhile, unfilled cybersecurity jobs worldwide will reach 3.5 million by 2021. Even now, more than 209,000 cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. are unfilled, and postings are up 74% over the past five year. Clearly, it’s a threat that isn’t expected to go away.

Eyes Wide Open

Employers can take a number of steps to prevent data theft, such as protecting every computer connected to the Internet or the internal network with anti-virus and anti-spyware software; installing security-software updates promptly to stay ahead of hackers; securing the company’s wi-fi network by requiring passwords or even configuring the wireless access point or router to hide the network name; securing computers and network components and requiring log-on passwords for all employees; and continually educating employees on security guidelines for computer, network, database, e-mail, and Internet usage, as well as penalties for violating those guidelines.

And, of course, training employees on how to spot a scam.

“It’s not a data breach when you fool someone into giving up data,” Trudeau said. “In the last few years, insurance providers have seen a striking increase in people voluntarily parting with their money. We need to make sure we’re having the right conversations.”

He said he’s heard of someone posing as a technician visiting a business, and asking to use the bathroom. Once out of sight, he ducks into the first empty cubicle he sees and inserts a flash drive onto a computer to upload malware.

“Certainly prevention is important. A lot of little things can happen,” he told BusinessWest. “Awareness is important, to stay fully ahead of all the shenanigans.”

Some cybersecurity-insurance carriers pose a long series of questions on their application forms about the details of a company’s exposure to data risk, and if the underwriter isn’t satisfied with the answers, they may not write the policy until certain practices have been changed and safeguards put in place. Companies may also choose to hire a third party to poke around their computer systems and challenge their operations when necessary.

“Prevention is critical because the fallout from a breach is not limited to out-of-pocket expense,” Dowd said. “You can also lose clients and sales.”

Indeed, according to an Economist Intelligence Unit consumer survey conducted in 2013, 18% of respondents had been a victim of a data breach, and, of those individuals, 38% said they no longer did business with the organization because of the breach. Meanwhile, 46% said they advised friends and family to be careful of sharing data with the breached company.

“Having a good IT firm who knows how to protect your system on an ongoing basis is critical,” Dowd continued. “Going through the application-for-coverage process is very helpful and often eye-opening because it reveals what you may or may not be doing correctly from a prevention standpoint. I will often suggest to clients that they go through the process of applying in order to educate themselves, even if they ultimately choose not to buy the insurance policy.”

After all, the best policy against becoming a victim is knowledge and vigilance. But an actual insurance policy is a good idea, too.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Insurance Sections

Matters of Policy

Regina Jasak says local agents can help consumers avoid some “really scary policies.”

Regina Jasak says local agents can help consumers avoid some “really scary policies.”

When Massachusetts opened up its auto-insurance landscape in 2008, switching from a one-price-fits-all approach to the current model known as managed competition, it created more challenges for independent agents, but much more opportunity for customers willing to take the time to examine the many options and credits available to them. The key, these agents say, is putting their expertise to use — a resource not available to those purchasing insurance from direct writers online.

Eileen Bresnahan is always amazed at what people will do for a low insurance rate — like one individual who was covered for $5,000 in property damage for his 2017 Camry.

“If I hit you and do $17,000 worth of damage, my company is going to pay you the five grand, and you’re going to have to try to get the rest out of me,” she said, putting herself in that individual’s shoes for a moment. But such is the world of direct insurance writers — like Progressive and Geico — that market themselves based mainly on price, and wind up skimping on, you know, actual coverage.

“We always say ‘buyer beware,’” Bresnahan, president of Bresnahan Insurance Agency in Holyoke, said of local independent insurance agencies like her own. “We’re all licensed and trained; we can look at a policy and can tell you the things you might not know.”

Regina Jasak, president of Regina Jasak Insurance in Ludlow, has seen the same cases cross her desk.

“Anything you might hit — a guardrail, a car, a house — after that $5,000, you’ll be paying for it as well. You can get a really cheap policy, but you get what you pay for. I’ve seen some really scary policies out there from the direct writers.”

The truth, she added, is that customers can get policies for not much more than the bare-bones pricing of the online marketers, but with much better coverage, explained in detail, simply because of the flexibility Massachusetts insurers have enjoyed over the past decade — flexibility that, for the most part, didn’t exist before.

Indeed, for much of the past century, auto-insurance rates in Massachusetts were set by the state Division of Insurance. Anyone who requested a premium quote for a certain level of coverage would receive the same price from any number of companies, unless they were eligible for a group discount.

Managed competition, which began in 2008, allows insurance companies to offer their own rates. Although these rates may vary, they must still be approved by the Division of Insurance — hence the term ‘managed.’ The result is that Massachusetts drivers are able to compare the different rates, benefits, and services offered by the insurance companies competing for their business.

“There’s a lot of flexibility in auto rates and coverages, and it really needs to be tailored to each client,” Jasak said. “Each company has its own appetites, so we really need to delve into the client to figure out what’s best for them in order to find the best company at the best rates.”

That changed landscape made life more complicated for local agents, but in a good way, Jasak added.

“I find it more entertaining. It used to be that auto insurance was auto insurance, and it didn’t really matter where you were insured, whereas now the consumer can consider things like the company’s billing process, how claims are settled, are their rates good for my circumstances, do they offer me a great bundle option tying the house and car together? Is that the best thing to do, or can I get a better rate if I split things apart?”

Shifting Gears

Trish Vassallo, personal and commercial lines director at Encharter Insurance in Amherst, agreed that managed competition has radically changed the automotive side of the insurance business in Massachusetts.

Trish Vassallo (left, with Tracey Benison) says customers should review their policy every year to make sure they’re taking advantage of all the credits available to them.

Trish Vassallo (left, with Tracey Benison) says customers should review their policy every year to make sure they’re taking advantage of all the credits available to them.

“Carriers have been able to offer add-ons and packages and rider endorsements and enhancements that are specialized per carrier,” she said, “so while the Geicos and Progressives talk about accident forgiveness and gap coverages and reward dollars, those are available with everyone operating in Massachusetts today. Independent agents offer these coverages, but they are an added expense, as they would be with any carrier. As a client, you need to look at your coverage every year to make sure you’re getting the right pricing for the right products.”

That’s where independent agents serve a role the direct writers online cannot, she went on. “Sometimes people aren’t aware of options available or never had them explained to them, or they just don’t care — they want the bottom-line price and don’t understand what they’re missing out on.”

Under the prior, regulated system, insurance providers were required to apply specific surcharges for certain accidents and traffic violations. Now, insurance companies are permitted to develop their own rules, subject to state approval, for imposing surcharges for at-fault accidents and traffic violations.

They can also include a raft of discounts, such as for students who attend school away from home, making it easier for their parents to carry them on their policies year-round, or for bundling auto and home insurance when both policies are bought from the same carrier.

“Different carriers all have their own model customers,” said Tracey Benison, president of Encharter Insurance. “Our job is to really know the carriers and try to find the right fit for the customer.”

For example, Jasak said, some carriers will look back at driving records over three years, some six, and they also vary in how they incorporate accidents — both at-fault and not at-fault — into their pricing.

Then there are the credits, and they are myriad, Bresnahan said. “There are good-student discounts, so if a student gets a 3.0 GPA or higher, that’s one of the credits on there. Let me tell you, it is a big savings — and it’s an incentive to get good grades, and it also pertains to college.”

She also mentioned the discount for students away at college, as well as low-mileage discounts, which can knock anywhere from 2% to 17% off the cost of a policy. “Just think — the lower the mileage you drive, the less chances there are of getting in an accident or having a moving violation.”

From left, Shelly Chantre, Judy Orlen, Nicole Shibley, Janet Fernandez-Santiago, and Eileen Bresnahan of Bresnahan Insurance.

From left, Shelly Chantre, Judy Orlen, Nicole Shibley, Janet Fernandez-Santiago, and Eileen Bresnahan of Bresnahan Insurance.

Carriers may also offer multi-car discounts, a AAA membership credit — with the discount increasing the longer a customer has been a member — and a discount for individuals who enroll in an advanced driver training course. “There’s also a disappearing deductible that wasn’t in effect before either, so if you don’t have an accident for a certain number of years, each year your deductible builds up.”

With each carrier using such incentives to attract their own version of a model customer, agents need to understand all the nuances and how best to match a driver with a policy, Bresnahan added.

“It’s just training your staff to know which credits to offer,” she said. “We have letters go out with renewals, and we highlight discounts and enhancements they currently have and other ones they don’t, and they can call if they’re interested in knowing more about those.”

More Than 15 Minutes

The direct writers have certainly made an impact on Massachusetts auto-insurance scene, but they’ve also brought some controversy, being fined multiple times by the state’s Division of Insurance for various deceptive or confusing practices.

“Some of the direct writers are very coy with prices or hidden deductibles, which the customer is not aware of until a loss comes into play,” Vassallo said. “It can be difficult to understand your coverage when you’re buying off the rack.”

The benefit of an independent agent representing multiple carriers, she said, is that she can work to generate the best product for each individual — and educate customers on various pitfalls, such as the importance of listing all household members as operators, as failure to do so can lead to a claim not being paid.

“It’s very, very important that parents list their children on their auto-insurance policy as soon they get their license,” Jasak added. “If they have no prior insurance, it’ll be very expensive when they need it. Parents say, ‘oh, they never drive my car,’ but if they kids are never insured, if they’re never listed on their parents’ policy, they’ll be paying an exorbitant amount of money when they get their own insurance.”

It’s all about relationships, Bresnahan said, not just a bottom-line dollar figure on a computer screen.

“When you’re a local, independent agent, you have to look people in the eye. With these direct writers, you’re not looking that gecko in the eye,” she said, noting that she has lost clients to the online companies dangling a cheaper rate. “Buyer beware. If it’s too good to be true, there’s usually something up.”

And also beware, she said, when a direct writer promises to produce a quote in 15 minutes.

“We educate our personnel, and we keep up with the changes in this business — because it’s forever changing. There’s so much information that it’s not possible to get a quote in 15 minutes. You’re not getting proper explanation of the coverage. There’s so much involved in getting a quote. It takes a long time.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]



By Bob Rio

A shortage of natural-gas capacity during the December-January cold snap added $1.7 billion to the electric bills of business and residential customers in New England while erasing all the environmental benefits from solar energy in Massachusetts during 2017.

Now you know why Massachusetts employers support the idea of expanding natural-gas infrastructure in the region.

New data released this month by the Massachusetts Coalition for Sustainable Energy (MCSE) and compiled by Concentric Energy Advisors underscores the economic and environmental damage wrought by our energy status quo.

Natural-gas supplies in the region are tight during the winter. Despite abundant supplies just a few states away, pipeline infrastructure to get it here is inadequate, and efforts to address this issue have been stymied by those who believe upgrading our natural-gas infrastructure will stall progress on transitioning to clean energy.

Electricity generators simply don’t have enough natural gas to operate during the bitter cold because most of the available gas is used to serve businesses and homeowners.

To satisfy the increased demand for electricity, power plants burn stored backup oil and coal. The lights stay on, but greenhouse-gas emissions increase exponentially since oil and coal emit more carbon than natural gas. The cold-weather shortage of natural gas has become so common in recent winters that power generators are paid to store oil, whether or not it is needed, as sort of an insurance policy funded by ratepayers through higher electric rates.

According to the Concentric report, the amount of coal and oil burned during just a two-week period generated 1.3 million tons of extra greenhouse-gas emissions over what would have been emitted if gas had been available. The ratepayer cost was $1.7 billion higher than the previous winter — most of which will show up in next winter’s energy bills. In fact, Eversource recently sought a 15% increase in electric rates for customers in Western Mass. for the period July through December.

How much is 1.3 million tons? The extra greenhouse gases negated all the greenhouse-gas savings from all the solar energy produced in Massachusetts throughout 2017. It’s a problem that cannot be solved by adding more solar capacity, since the highest need for natural gas is in the winter, when solar output is at its lowest.

Had the cold period continued (or if another came later in the year), brownouts would likely had occurred. ISO-NE, the regional power-grid operator, reports that the system was about three days away from crashing, as some plants were running out of oil and had to curtail their output.

This dangerous mix of rising costs, rising emissions, and potential brownouts comes at a time when other states are dangling low energy costs in front of Massachusetts employers to persuade those companies to expand elsewhere. It’s not a tough sell — our energy costs are nearly double those of states in other regions of the country.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts, along with other members of the Coalition for Sustainable Energy, support a balanced approach to address the region’s energy problems. That approach embraces renewables — AIM has supported the development of both hydro power and offshore wind — while at the same time acknowledging the stresses on our current system and the economic and environmental damage that is occurring.

Bob Rio is AIM’s senior vice president, Government Affairs.

Business Management Sections

Bridging the Gap

Brett Gearing says some of the region’s best business ideas come from people who don’t consider their idea a business, but the Alchemy Fund is trying to change that.

Brett Gearing says some of the region’s best business ideas come from people who don’t consider their idea a business, but the Alchemy Fund is trying to change that.

Alchemy is a term that dates back to medieval science — specifically, the effort to convert raw materials into gold.

It was a fruitless attempt, of course. But the four partners at the Alchemy Fund have a similar idea, one with far more potential.

Their idea is to spin ideas into — well, not gold, exactly, but profitable businesses.

Last summer, Brett Gearing, Randy Krotowski, Kevin Sanborn, and Chris Sims had an idea for a different kind of model for cultivating startup businesses. “We spent a lot of time fleshing out the objective and plan, to see if the model would actually work, and most of that entailed going to universities, meeting the academics, faculty, and staff, and saying, ‘hey, what do you have in here that’s interesting?’” Gearing told BusinessWest.

“They were more than willing to show us their research, what they spend their whole lives working on, and some of them recognized there might be commercial opportunities — but a lot of them didn’t realize it; they were busy focusing on the research.”

Those conversations convinced the four partners that the Pioneer Valley has no shortage of promising ideas sitting in labs and classrooms which, with some support — funding, advisory services, business acumen, and staffing — could become viable companies. “That was our first checkbox — there are plenty of good ideas in the area,” said Gearing.

In short, he explained, the Alchemy Fund aims to create new ventures from ideas cooked up at universities and health systems, among other sources. The team will search out these technologies and concepts, identify product and market applications, recruit founding teams, provide seed funding, handle back-office services, and coach the new company along.

“We named this product Alchemy because of how it transforms its raw materials,” Gearing explained. “Our typical starting point is an underappreciated lab technique, an industry problem whose time has come, or an existing startup team targeting the wrong market.”

The first burst of fund-raising has amassed about $1 million, and Alchemy made its first project investment, in a screening mechanism for diabetes originated at Western New England University. “We think the opportunity to bring that company to a viable business is really great, given the market size and all the attention to diabetes,” said Gearing.

Certainly, the startup and venture-capital culture are nothing new to Western Mass., and neither is medical or technological innovation, thanks to a knot of notable colleges, universities, health systems, IT firms, and precision manufacturers. However, while traditional venture-capital enterprises have startups knocking on their door, Alchemy believes some of the best ideas are being developed by people who may not be thinking about marketability — but should.

“And there are plenty of both opportunities and money here, and many ideas haven’t really spun out as ventures yet,” Gearing told BusinessWest. “We started by focusing on academia, but we’ve evolved, and we’re looking at both academia and healthcare systems. That’s where we are now, and so far, so good.”

Common Ground

The four Alchemy partners have backgrounds ranging from institutional investment to venture capital to health and wellness, and met through the region’s robust startup ecosystem, Gearing said.

“We realized there was a lot of talent in this area, and we wanted to do something in the Valley for the Valley, and thought our skill sets would work well together — and so far they have,” he went on. “If we find we need a specific skill set we don’t have, our model is flexible enough that we can bring an expert in.”

The team has explored about 25 potential opportunities in fields like polymer science, engineering, computer science, wearables, and healthcare, and is looking closely at a handful of those.

“My partners and I will kick the tires on each idea and try to get a sense of what the market looks like, how much money it takes to bring it to market, and whether we have the right skills to get it to that point,” he explained. Often, it’s a challenge simply to convince the purveyor of a good idea to take the idea to market.

“Sometimes the person doing this research is a chief data scientist or polymer scientist or engineer who might not even want to run a business because they don’t have the time. Or they might be a tenured professor and have a great gig, and absolutely love what they’re doing. So we come in and say, ‘we love your idea; we think we can make a business out of this.’”

Gearing expects the idea originator to come on board, in most cases, as a chief scientist or engineer to help move the research forward, and Alchemy will surround him with a team with the business acumen to help bring that idea to fruition.

“Once there’s a commitment there, our goal is to bring it to a stable state and then hire a CEO, COO, and help with back-office services like accounting, bookkeeping, and fundraising. That’s important because, when I look at startups, they spend a lot of time pitching their idea, raising funds, and educating people on what they’re trying to do, and less time working on the actual business. So we’ll handle a lot of that.”

To be successful, he added, Alchemy’s partners are essentially drawing on their experience and cobbling together elements of already-successful models. “We can say, ‘I know this works,’ or ‘I know this is troublesome because of XYZ.’ We’re still honing the model, but I think we’re really onto something.”

The money raised from investors will pay for a number of expenses, he noted, depending on the project. In the case of the diabetes project, because it’s in the medical space, some money might be spent on clinical trials.

“We’ll also certainly try to source a CEO in the first six months, and help build a team around them. Every scenario is different. It might be product development, it might be testing, it might be branding or marketing, and it might be a whole combination of these things.”

The goal, he emphasized again, is to spin off successful, independent companies that can grow in the region. “Ideally, we’ll bring them through several levels of funding until the real money comes in. That’s our goal — to get them to revenue as soon as we can and get them to stand up on their own.”

Working in Concert

Gearing, who has also taught at Elms College and serves on its entrepreneurial leadership board, understands the potential bubbling under the surface at the area’s many institutions of higher learning, and he’s familiar with the expansive network of entrepreneurial support across the region, from Valley Venture Mentors to TechSpring to the venture-capital community.

“I think it all needs to work together in concert, and that’s where we fit in,” he told BusinessWest. “There’s an opportunity for all of us to fit together and work together collaboratively. Through this network, we’re able to find people to help ideas along. If I need someone in the insurance space or whatever the case may be, people are more willing to open up their doors and support what we’re trying to do. And once we have proven this model works, I think it only gets easier.”

While the Alchemy Fund has been operating under the radar in many ways, even while looking for investors, he added, it’s time to take the profile to a higher place. “We wanted to make sure all the pieces fit together well, and now we have a story to tell.”

A story that’s only beginning.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Departments Real Estate

The following real estate transactions (latest available) were compiled by Banker & Tradesman and are published as they were received. Only transactions exceeding $115,000 are listed. Buyer and seller fields contain only the first name listed on the deed.



297 Cummington Road
Ashfield, MA 01330
Amount: $309,075
Buyer: Liza Cassidy-Jeswald
Seller: Beverly Pearcy-Chow
Date: 04/12/18


Merrigan Way
Deerfield, MA 01342
Amount: $357,280
Buyer: New England Natural Bakers
Seller: Town Of Deerfield
Date: 04/17/18


18 Central St.
Erving, MA 01344
Amount: $151,000
Buyer: Phyllis H. Radcliff
Seller: Deborah J. Verdery
Date: 04/19/18


52 Allen St.
Greenfield, MA 01301
Amount: $150,000
Buyer: Ahren B. Fitzroy
Seller: Toth, Joyce K., (Estate)
Date: 04/10/18

135 Harrison Ave.
Greenfield, MA 01301
Amount: $176,000
Buyer: Joseph Gamache
Seller: Timothy M. Dunn
Date: 04/19/18

9 Pine St.
Greenfield, MA 01301
Amount: $223,000
Buyer: Caitlin C. Miller
Seller: Mindy T. Thach
Date: 04/13/18


6 Edward Ave.
Montague, MA 01376
Amount: $180,000
Buyer: John J. Linscott
Seller: Pamela Madera
Date: 04/13/18

25 Turners Falls Road
Montague, MA 01376
Amount: $165,000
Buyer: Megan A. Atherton
Seller: Jamie L. Poremba
Date: 04/20/18


217-K Adams Road
Northfield, MA 01360
Amount: $187,752
Buyer: Wilmington Savings
Seller: Jared A. Sedgley
Date: 04/10/18

175 Millers Falls Road
Northfield, MA 01360
Amount: $120,500
Buyer: Vida M. Cripps
Seller: Scott D. Wolfram
Date: 04/17/18

781 Millers Falls Road
Northfield, MA 01354
Amount: $131,600
Buyer: Mass Rural Water Association Inc.
Seller: Community Bible Church
Date: 04/12/18

907 Millers Falls Road
Northfield, MA 01360
Amount: $240,000
Buyer: Breeana L. Llewelyn
Seller: Elizabeth W. Karlson
Date: 04/12/18


21 Meadow Lane
Orange, MA 01364
Amount: $200,000
Buyer: Justin Laroche
Seller: Mark E. Burdzy
Date: 04/13/18

310 Walnut Hill Road
Orange, MA 01364
Amount: $179,000
Buyer: Kelsie M. Bardsley
Seller: KDMK LLC
Date: 04/13/18


51 Shore Dr.
Shutesbury, MA 01072
Amount: $285,000
Buyer: Dean W. Carey
Seller: Paul Beaulieu
Date: 04/11/18


251 Long Plain Road
Whately, MA 01093
Amount: $309,000
Buyer: David L. Boardman
Seller: Heidi Lohr
Date: 04/17/18



Barry St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $500,000
Buyer: Vincent Land Holdings Inc.
Seller: Koguts Hemlock Hill Tree
Date: 04/20/18

111 Clover Hill Dr.
Agawam, MA 01030
Amount: $123,000
Buyer: Felix Decesare
Seller: Grus, Edward J., (Estate)
Date: 04/12/18

112-114 Cooley St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $250,000
Buyer: Thomas R. Mills
Seller: Liberato Management Co.
Date: 04/20/18

41 Federal St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $217,000
Buyer: Oak Ridge Custom Home Builders
Seller: Tirone Development Corp.
Date: 04/13/18

83 Federal St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $217,000
Buyer: Oak Ridge Custom Home Buildrs
Seller: Tirone Development Corp.
Date: 04/13/18

63 High St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $334,000
Buyer: Alexander Panchelyuga
Seller: Pavel Kuzmenko
Date: 04/18/18

56 Lealand Ave.
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $188,120
Buyer: US Bank
Seller: Heather Grady
Date: 04/19/18

6-8 Mark Dr.
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $410,000
Buyer: Donna Wagner
Seller: Langone Realty Corp.
Date: 04/13/18

132 Meadowbrook Road
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $271,000
Buyer: Olga Ortiz
Seller: Nina V. Tsukanova
Date: 04/19/18

280 North St.
Agawam, MA 01030
Amount: $198,000
Buyer: Melissa B. Grant
Seller: Steven Fraga
Date: 04/20/18

13 Pheasant Run Circle
Agawam, MA 01030
Amount: $273,124
Buyer: US Bank
Seller: Tammy J. Buoniconti
Date: 04/10/18

Pine St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $500,000
Buyer: Vincent Land Holdings Inc.
Seller: Koguts Hemlock Hill Tree
Date: 04/20/18

28 Robin Ridge Dr.
Agawam, MA 01030
Amount: $250,000
Buyer: Mark Ledwell
Seller: Wayne C. Asselin
Date: 04/12/18

176 Rowley St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $212,500
Buyer: Joseph P. Cotter
Seller: Albert J. Grimaldi
Date: 04/09/18

168 Valley Brook Road
Agawam, MA 01030
Amount: $281,000
Buyer: Erik G. Sudnick
Seller: Chelsea Lafontaine
Date: 04/18/18


95 Cubles Dr.
Brimfield, MA 01010
Amount: $260,000
Buyer: Michael L. Donahue
Seller: James A. Phillips
Date: 04/19/18

201 Dunhamtown Palmer Road
Brimfield, MA 01010
Amount: $245,000
Buyer: Kayla Desmarais
Seller: Richard J. Lunden
Date: 04/13/18

155 Warren Road
Brimfield, MA 01010
Amount: $256,005
Buyer: William J. Waterman
Seller: Michael D. Plouffe
Date: 04/12/18


7 Ann St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $150,000
Buyer: Kyle E. Mrozinski
Seller: Fredrick D. Goehring
Date: 04/20/18

132 Carew St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $175,900
Buyer: Brad Rzewnicki
Seller: AEM Property Investment
Date: 04/20/18

111 Casino Ave.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Amount: $130,000
Buyer: Ian G. Stock
Seller: Miguel Rodriguez
Date: 04/20/18

104 Catherine St.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Amount: $124,000
Buyer: Michelle Hernandez
Seller: FHLM
Date: 04/20/18

77 Cyman Dr.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Amount: $203,500
Buyer: Chester A. Green
Seller: Lisa A. Bessette
Date: 04/17/18

22 Dawn St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $250,000
Buyer: James R. Bergeron
Seller: Moore, Janet M., (Estate)
Date: 04/18/18

72 Dresser Ave.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Amount: $178,500
Buyer: Robyn Michaud
Seller: Darlene A. Lemiech
Date: 04/13/18

5 Guyotte Ave.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $130,000
Buyer: Donald Pare
Seller: Michael O’Leary
Date: 04/18/18

46 Lafayette St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $170,000
Buyer: Norma M. Streciwilk
Seller: Richard R. Paul
Date: 04/11/18

767 McKinstry Ave.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $134,233
Buyer: Pennymac Corp.
Seller: Susan Flowers
Date: 04/18/18

250 Moore St.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Amount: $193,100
Buyer: Johanna Graybill-Bliss
Seller: Brian Lynch
Date: 04/13/18

202 Old Lyman Road
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $225,000
Buyer: Norman R. Langlois
Seller: Casey A. Breault
Date: 04/20/18

184 Rimmon Ave.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Amount: $205,000
Buyer: Kevin S. Dion
Seller: Mark A. Abel
Date: 04/18/18

20 Sullivan St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $185,000
Buyer: Luc A. Roux
Seller: Seth A. Clapp
Date: 04/12/18

1565 Westover Road
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $173,000
Buyer: Migdalia Rodriguez
Seller: Fernando A. Alejandro
Date: 04/19/18


15 Corning St.
East Longmeadow, MA 01108
Amount: $260,000
Buyer: Pamela L. Rutherford
Seller: Francesca Cataldo
Date: 04/17/18

31 Donamor Lane
East Longmeadow, MA 01028
Amount: $235,000
Buyer: Alessandra A. Graziani
Seller: Benjamin Wertheim
Date: 04/20/18

296 Elm St.
East Longmeadow, MA 01028
Amount: $205,218
Buyer: Debra M. Rico
Seller: Hugh K. Martin
Date: 04/12/18

155 Kibbe Road
East Longmeadow, MA 01028
Amount: $127,000
Buyer: Gina Daniele
Seller: Tara A. Dunphy
Date: 04/18/18

162 Pease Road
East Longmeadow, MA 01028
Amount: $325,000
Buyer: Jeffrey S. Morneau
Seller: Carmax Auto Superstores
Date: 04/19/18

26 Woodlawn St.
East Longmeadow, MA 01028
Amount: $329,900
Buyer: Patrick A. Gorham
Seller: Moltenbrey Builders LLC
Date: 04/20/18

75 Waterman Ave.
East Longmeadow, MA 01028
Amount: $285,000
Buyer: Dinh Le
Seller: Debra J. Santaniello
Date: 04/12/18


151 Granville Road
Granville, MA 01077
Amount: $231,000
Buyer: Krista Lippert
Seller: Brian Banta
Date: 04/19/18


56 Allen Crest St.
Hampden, MA 01036
Amount: $200,000
Buyer: Kimberly A. Staback
Seller: Mark D. Shumway
Date: 04/09/18

19 Echo Valley Dr.
Hampden, MA 01036
Amount: $247,900
Buyer: Susan E. Santos
Seller: Nathaniel S. Anderson
Date: 04/13/18

300 Glendale Road
Hampden, MA 01036
Amount: $310,000
Buyer: Timothy Miller
Seller: Timothy B. Shumway
Date: 04/13/18

15 Greenleaf Dr.
Hampden, MA 01036
Amount: $319,500
Buyer: John T. Dayton
Seller: George J. Semanie
Date: 04/12/18

46 Mountainview Dr.
Hampden, MA 01036
Amount: $185,000
Buyer: Warren Spears
Seller: PD Developments LLC
Date: 04/19/18

14 Raymond Dr.
Hampden, MA 01036
Amount: $157,500
Buyer: James Dirico
Seller: FNMA
Date: 04/20/18

311 Wilbraham Road
Hampden, MA 01036
Amount: $138,000
Buyer: KC 260 Main Street LLC
Seller: Wilson Wong
Date: 04/13/18


45 Sandy Beach Road
Holland, MA 01521
Amount: $220,000
Buyer: Andrew Thibeault
Seller: Joseph E. Landry
Date: 04/10/18


55 Belvidere Ave.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $131,000
Buyer: Jeffrey Wohlers
Seller: Behyar Roohi
Date: 04/17/18

15 Central Park Dr.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $210,100
Buyer: Paul Healy
Seller: John F. Tobin
Date: 04/20/18

69 Cleveland St.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $374,900
Buyer: Michael J. Szawlowski
Seller: Charlotte C. Lussier
Date: 04/17/18

1475 Dwight St.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $297,621
Buyer: Dwight Parker LLC
Seller: Yvon L. Leduc
Date: 04/13/18

701 Kelly Way
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $2,250,000
Buyer: 701 Kelly Holyoke LLC
Seller: KWHP LLC
Date: 04/10/18

40 Lexington Ave.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $405,000
Buyer: Justin C. Niles
Seller: Mark D. Watts
Date: 04/19/18

75 Lexington Ave.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $449,000
Buyer: Brad Tuttle
Seller: Aaron G. Earls
Date: 04/13/18

75 Merrick Ave.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $178,000
Buyer: Amy Calandrella
Seller: Joseph Judge
Date: 04/20/18

251 Michigan Ave.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $210,000
Buyer: Patrick T. Noonan
Seller: R&H Roofing LLP
Date: 04/17/18

61 Norwood Terrace
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $209,900
Buyer: Nathan M. Hammond
Seller: Sandra E. Blaney
Date: 04/18/18

31 Sheehan Dr.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $185,000
Buyer: William D. Molina
Seller: Patrick T. Noonan
Date: 04/17/18

417 Southampton Road
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $207,500
Buyer: Jeffrey Kent
Seller: Brendan Fuller
Date: 04/17/18

1 Wayne Court
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $224,900
Buyer: Patrick S. Burke
Seller: Trent Rivers
Date: 04/12/18


104 Barclay St.
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $151,000
Buyer: CIG 2 LLC
Seller: Jinyoung Seo
Date: 04/11/18

37 Birnie Road
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $610,000
Buyer: Joseph M. Thompson
Seller: Craig E. Collins
Date: 04/18/18

242 Burbank Road
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $170,000
Buyer: CIG 2 LLC
Seller: Bruce F. Gregori
Date: 04/12/18

64 Edgewood Ave.
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $274,900
Buyer: Max R. Mullen
Seller: Kelly A. Brown
Date: 04/17/18

37 Meadow Road
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $155,000
Buyer: Mary L. Wilson
Seller: Sandra A. Samol
Date: 04/17/18

21 Meadowlark Dr.
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $215,150
Buyer: David Chapdelaine
Seller: Nationstar REO Sub 1B LLC
Date: 04/18/18

41 Northfield Road
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $615,000
Buyer: Matthew W. Jacobs
Seller: Teresa A. Anderson
Date: 04/13/18

15 Pinelawn Road
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $191,500
Buyer: Theresa Roberts
Seller: Onyx Investments LLC
Date: 04/20/18


61 Bramucci St.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $230,000
Buyer: Nicole L. Roy
Seller: Gillian M. Roy
Date: 04/18/18

1680 Center St.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $235,000
Buyer: Cynthia A. Hunter
Seller: Keem LLC
Date: 04/20/18

39 Cypress St.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $206,000
Buyer: Andrew Fenton
Seller: Erica Serrazina
Date: 04/18/18

57 Kirkland Ave.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $199,000
Buyer: Danielle M. Marshall
Seller: Kathleen D. Goller
Date: 04/13/18

25 Lazarz St.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $166,000
Buyer: Jonathan Iwasinski
Seller: Lucille P. Hertz
Date: 04/13/18

530 Lyon St.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $362,000
Buyer: Sean T. Noonan
Seller: Christine Ribeiro
Date: 04/19/18

183 Reynolds St.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $151,700
Buyer: Wells Fargo Bank
Seller: Diane R. DosSantos
Date: 04/19/18


Bumstead Road #15
Monson, MA 01057
Amount: $150,000
Buyer: John Rahkonen
Seller: Stella Furgal RT
Date: 04/13/18

Bumstead Road #16
Monson, MA 01057
Amount: $150,000
Buyer: John Rahkonen
Seller: Stella Furgal RT
Date: 04/13/18

198 Town Farm Road
Monson, MA 01057
Amount: $355,000
Buyer: Joshua J. Gagnon
Seller: Craig M. Szado
Date: 04/20/18


10 Alden St.
Palmer, MA 01069
Amount: $205,000
Buyer: Joshua A. Pelski
Seller: Ryan R. Lavoie
Date: 04/20/18

88 Longview St.
Palmer, MA 01069
Amount: $188,000
Buyer: Kevin M. Robbins
Seller: Jamy J. Gagnon
Date: 04/20/18

20 Norma St.
Palmer, MA 01069
Amount: $175,000
Buyer: Diane E. Outhuse
Seller: Frederick H. Glanville
Date: 04/13/18


15 Beach Road
Southwick, MA 01077
Amount: $165,000
Buyer: Vicki Burnham
Seller: P. Baiardi-Kantorski
Date: 04/20/18

16 Fenton Dr.
Southwick, MA 01077
Amount: $405,000
Buyer: Michael E. Fregeau
Seller: Justin Klaubert
Date: 04/10/18

47 Lexington Circle
Southwick, MA 01077
Amount: $442,000
Buyer: Angela M. Whitcher
Seller: Lori S. Bonk
Date: 04/19/18

105 Vining Hill Road
Southwick, MA 01077
Amount: $210,000
Buyer: Mark A. Plasse
Seller: Mark Plasse
Date: 04/20/18


60 Aldrew Terrace
Springfield, MA 01119
Amount: $185,000
Buyer: Jose M. Torres
Seller: Stephanie R. Whitley
Date: 04/20/18

11 Aspen Road
Springfield, MA 01128
Amount: $151,700
Buyer: Citizens Bank
Seller: Christopher M. Miller
Date: 04/19/18

75 Balis St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $122,000
Buyer: Joel A. Maldonado
Seller: Attaford LLC
Date: 04/11/18

18 Baywood St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $195,000
Buyer: Emily Niemann
Seller: Joe C. Long
Date: 04/12/18

736 Belmont Ave.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $232,900
Buyer: Antony Massop
Seller: Christiaan X. Vandamme
Date: 04/20/18

63-65 Bloomfield St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $139,000
Buyer: 196-198 Bowdoin St Realty
Seller: Victor C. Tang
Date: 04/10/18

261 Bolton St.
Springfield, MA 01119
Amount: $126,772
Buyer: US Bank
Seller: Dennis Brown
Date: 04/11/18

45 Bronson Terrace
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $206,000
Buyer: Janine Spinola-Taylor
Seller: Monika Kusy
Date: 04/12/18

56 Bruce St.
Springfield, MA 01119
Amount: $212,000
Buyer: Mariama Sonnah
Seller: Amy Johnson
Date: 04/13/18

22 Burr St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $115,000
Buyer: Sugandh Bhatia
Seller: Scott M. Garcia
Date: 04/17/18

107 Carol Ann St.
Springfield, MA 01128
Amount: $172,000
Buyer: Delia E. Jimenez
Seller: Dianne Draper
Date: 04/20/18

73 Crystal Ave.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $155,000
Buyer: Mayra Quinones-Rivera
Seller: Liandro Gonzalez
Date: 04/13/18

269 Denver St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $139,000
Buyer: Juan I. Rios-Colon
Seller: Danil A. Politov
Date: 04/20/18

63 Dexter St.
Springfield, MA 01105
Amount: $165,000
Buyer: Wallace Vick
Seller: Erik Dahl
Date: 04/19/18

47-49 Draper St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $188,000
Buyer: Aita Gajmer
Seller: Jahjan LLC
Date: 04/09/18

82-84 Edgeland St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $135,000
Buyer: Emily Lopez
Seller: Janusz Kosciolek
Date: 04/20/18

99 El Paso St. #134
Springfield, MA 01104
Amount: $249,000
Buyer: James S. Brown
Seller: June E. Stamand
Date: 04/20/18

218 Ellendale Circle
Springfield, MA 01128
Amount: $217,000
Buyer: Ricardo G. Barnes
Seller: Stephanie K. Godbout
Date: 04/10/18

17 Ellsworth Ave.
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $169,000
Buyer: Amanda C. Claing
Seller: Helder F. Nunes
Date: 04/09/18

54 Fellsmere St.
Springfield, MA 01119
Amount: $232,500
Buyer: Morgan R. Tobin
Seller: Herbert S. Berman
Date: 04/17/18

12 Flower St.
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $207,000
Buyer: Adam Chisholm
Seller: Jason Tremblay
Date: 04/13/18

41 Garfield St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $210,000
Buyer: Heather M. Goodyear
Seller: Stacy M. Sheard
Date: 04/19/18

109 Gilman St.
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $150,934
Buyer: US Bank
Seller: Richard A. McCarthy
Date: 04/20/18

185 Glenoak Dr.
Springfield, MA 01129
Amount: $177,000
Buyer: Moises Ortiz-Santiago
Seller: Josue Rivera
Date: 04/20/18

55 Gralia Dr.
Springfield, MA 01128
Amount: $187,000
Buyer: Jake T. Belanger
Seller: Angela Pafumi
Date: 04/13/18

29 Grover St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Amount: $155,000
Buyer: Pauline C. Ekajulo
Seller: Bert V. Wright
Date: 04/12/18

17 Hartford Terrace
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $210,000
Buyer: Armando Hernandez
Seller: Spencer F. Holmes
Date: 04/20/18

23 Healey St.
Springfield, MA 01151
Amount: $273,846
Buyer: 855 Liberty LLC
Seller: Campagnari Construction
Date: 04/11/18

61 Helberg Road
Springfield, MA 01128
Amount: $239,000
Buyer: James B. Harris
Seller: Agustin B. Roman
Date: 04/20/18

82 Hillside Dr.
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $115,000
Buyer: US Bank
Seller: Richard F. Bryant
Date: 04/20/18

17 Jefferson Ave.
Springfield, MA 01107
Amount: $127,935
Buyer: Bank Of Amercia
Seller: Tanya E. Watkins
Date: 04/13/18

80-84 Keith St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $115,000
Buyer: Hanh N. Pham
Seller: Michael Sarli
Date: 04/13/18

95 Kimberly Ave.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $120,000
Buyer: Joseph Basile
Seller: Alicia Crisostomo
Date: 04/17/18

15 Lawndale St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $129,000
Buyer: Maikel Gonzalez-Grillo
Seller: James W. Fiore
Date: 04/20/18

34 Littleton St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Amount: $175,000
Buyer: Lisandra Maysonet
Seller: JLC Realty Group LLC
Date: 04/13/18

21 Maebeth St.
Springfield, MA 01119
Amount: $182,000
Buyer: Mary M. Macharia
Seller: Michael J. Scanlon
Date: 04/13/18

1500 Main St.
Springfield, MA 01103
Amount: $6,900,000
Buyer: Mittas Hospitality LLC
Seller: Mass Mutual Life Insurance Co.
Date: 04/12/18

217 Mazarin St.
Springfield, MA 01151
Amount: $145,500
Buyer: Jesslyn Dejesus
Seller: Helder Nunes
Date: 04/20/18

100-102 Milton St.
Springfield, MA 01151
Amount: $160,000
Buyer: Christopher J. Behnk
Seller: Louis G. Beaudoin
Date: 04/17/18

339 Naismith St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Amount: $239,000
Buyer: Christa A. Nunnally
Seller: Hector L. Martinez
Date: 04/13/18

711 Newbury St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Amount: $115,000
Buyer: Derek C. Aviles
Seller: Venessa A. Smith
Date: 04/13/18

152 Newhouse St.
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $118,000
Buyer: David Bissaillon
Seller: David Knecht
Date: 04/11/18

281 Newton Road
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $200,000
Buyer: Wilfred Fontaine
Seller: Khai T. Bui
Date: 04/17/18

522 Page Blvd.
Springfield, MA 01104
Amount: $150,000
Buyer: Marwan M. Awkal
Seller: 522 Page Blvd. LLC
Date: 04/12/18

202-206 Pearl St.
Springfield, MA 01105
Amount: $1,192,000
Buyer: 212 Pearl LLC
Seller: Facta Non Verba LLC
Date: 04/13/18

208-212 Pearl St.
Springfield, MA 01105
Amount: $1,192,000
Buyer: 212 Pearl LLC
Seller: Facta Non Verba LLC
Date: 04/13/18

75 Pilgrim Road
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $181,500
Buyer: Gregory G. Sprofera
Seller: Brady Chianciola
Date: 04/09/18

35 Pine Hill Road
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $345,000
Buyer: Liliya Sadovaya
Seller: Bretta Construction LLC
Date: 04/20/18

29 Rapalus St.
Springfield, MA 01151
Amount: $225,000
Buyer: Josue G. Feliciano
Seller: Silver P. Serra
Date: 04/17/18

349 Roosevelt Ave.
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $130,930
Buyer: Michael Keane
Seller: Maryanne King
Date: 04/12/18

204 Saint James Ave.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $214,100
Buyer: Linda A. Broadwater-Davis
Seller: JJS Capital Investment
Date: 04/17/18

142 Shefford St.
Springfield, MA 01107
Amount: $172,200
Buyer: US Bank
Seller: Lisa R. Parrow
Date: 04/20/18

89 Signal Hill Circle
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $350,000
Buyer: Kyle I. Dieters
Seller: Grahams Construction Inc.
Date: 04/20/18

115 South Tallyho Dr.
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $204,000
Buyer: Ryan C. Mickiewicz
Seller: Michelle Stuart
Date: 04/13/18

235 State St. #DG2
Springfield, MA 01103
Amount: $167,000
Buyer: Balazs Kovacs
Seller: Gary S. Watson
Date: 04/17/18

340 Taylor St.
Springfield, MA 01105
Amount: $235,000
Buyer: Friends Of STCC Inc.
Seller: Springfield SS LLC
Date: 04/09/18

67 Texel Dr.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $214,000
Buyer: Patrick Spagnoletti
Seller: Lucchesi, Louis R., (Estate)
Date: 04/13/18

38 Virginia St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $165,000
Buyer: Joseph C. Deliso
Seller: Adam W. Powers
Date: 04/09/18

2-4 Wilmont St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $220,000
Buyer: ZTL Investment Group LLC
Seller: Trang Nguyen
Date: 04/20/18

87 Winding Lane
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $175,000
Buyer: Paul E. Smith
Seller: Melvin D. Rossman
Date: 04/20/18

3 Woodcliff St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $122,500
Buyer: Yamillette Diaz-Parra
Seller: James W. Fiore
Date: 04/13/18

557 Worthington St.
Springfield, MA 01105
Amount: $210,000
Buyer: Damascus Holdings LLC
Seller: Britalian LLC
Date: 04/18/18


7 Atwater St.
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $197,000
Buyer: Erik B. Quinn
Seller: Cody A. Rida
Date: 04/17/18

41 Church St.
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $206,000
Buyer: Nathan A. Byrnes
Seller: 41 Church St. LLC
Date: 04/18/18

104 Court St.
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $169,000
Buyer: DED Realty LLC
Seller: Tomestic, Constance L., (Estate)
Date: 04/11/18

1161 East Mountain Road
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $245,000
Buyer: Bryan K. Clauson
Seller: Robert D. Patenaude
Date: 04/13/18

48 Maple Terrace
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $239,000
Buyer: Adam R. Carmel
Seller: Roland R. Deblois
Date: 04/13/18

554 Montgomery Road
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $243,500
Buyer: Marianne Murphy
Seller: Michael B. Johnston
Date: 04/20/18

49 Northwest Road
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $204,500
Buyer: Eric Harshbarger
Seller: Myrl W. Clark
Date: 04/11/18

91 Orange St.
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $156,000
Buyer: Bank New York Mellon
Seller: Darryl J. Lamagdeleine
Date: 04/11/18

78 Otis St.
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $169,000
Buyer: Christopher D. Roy
Seller: Jessica N. Lambert
Date: 04/20/18

68 Plantation Circle
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $330,000
Buyer: Theodore Kopyscinski
Seller: MTGLQ Investors LP
Date: 04/09/18

13 Sycamore St.
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $162,500
Buyer: Jacquelyn A. Morris
Seller: Adam R. Carmel
Date: 04/13/18

113 Wildflower Circle
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $395,000
Buyer: Jennifer L. Orenstein
Seller: William O. Thompson
Date: 04/12/18


9 Brentwood Dr.
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $360,000
Buyer: Janelle A. Gaffer
Seller: Harry Reimers
Date: 04/13/18

21 Brooklawn Road
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $242,000
Buyer: Sarah Hauser
Seller: Olga C. Geoffino
Date: 04/13/18

27 Leemond St.
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $319,900
Buyer: Hannah Belcher-Timme
Seller: Kevin C. Peabody
Date: 04/20/18

455 Main St.
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $831,387
Buyer: NEP LLC
Date: 04/10/18

39 Manchonis Road
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $217,000
Buyer: Randall P. Flagg
Seller: Lynne A. Frame
Date: 04/13/18

104 Manchonis Road
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $166,100
Buyer: Carol R. Dewolf
Seller: Ken Kowynia
Date: 04/17/18

6 Oakland St.
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $325,000
Buyer: Kevin J. Percy
Seller: Thomas M. Cooney
Date: 04/20/18

63 Oakland St.
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $370,000
Buyer: Benjamin S. Wertheim
Seller: Lawrence R. Bauer
Date: 04/20/18

16 Pidgeon Dr.
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $275,000
Buyer: George J. Semanie
Seller: Christopher J. Baker
Date: 04/12/18

18 Sawmill Dr.
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $313,000
Buyer: Gary E. Dion
Seller: Amy B. Fearn
Date: 04/13/18

70 Stony Hill Road
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $160,000
Buyer: Daniel Toniatti
Seller: Michael A. Parker
Date: 04/17/18


159 Albert St.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $161,900
Buyer: Aleksandr Govor
Seller: US Bank
Date: 04/18/18

41 Belle Ave.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $173,000
Buyer: Dheyaa Zaidan
Seller: Mikhail Karapunarly
Date: 04/20/18

14 Brookline Ave.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $340,000
Buyer: Phillip J. Bonk
Seller: Seybold, Anne Marie, (Estate)
Date: 04/20/18

82 Chestnut St.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $190,000
Buyer: Juancarlos Nunez-Ruiz
Seller: Jonathan D. Jacobsen
Date: 04/12/18

99 City View Ave.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $204,900
Buyer: Amy M. Scalise
Seller: Erik G. Sudnick
Date: 04/18/18

125 Craiwell Ave.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $295,000
Buyer: Regina R. Ranstorm
Seller: Brett Gazaille
Date: 04/17/18

63 Elm Circle
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $116,000
Buyer: Minas Alitbi
Seller: HSBC Bank
Date: 04/13/18

96 Ely Ave.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $175,000
Buyer: Nilda L. Garcia-Diaz
Seller: Martyn G. Green
Date: 04/19/18

163 Falmouth Road
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $220,000
Buyer: Wilmington Savings
Seller: William B. Burlingham
Date: 04/17/18

57 Farnum St.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $210,000
Buyer: Michelle A. McCaffrey
Seller: Robert Whalen
Date: 04/13/18

32 Hampden St.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $199,900
Buyer: Dadhi Adhikari
Seller: Shu Cheng
Date: 04/20/18

85 Lewis Ave.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $225,000
Buyer: Joshua J. Seidell
Seller: Seidell Realty LLC
Date: 04/19/18

501 Memorial Ave.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $2,679,000
Buyer: 363 Boston Post Road LLC
Seller: AF-West Springfield MA LLC
Date: 04/13/18

290 Morton St.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $145,000
Buyer: Adam Bryant
Seller: Bolduc, Yvette R., (Estate)
Date: 04/17/18

51 Rogers Ave.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $232,050
Buyer: Jeffrey R. Mitchell
Seller: Adam R. Bryant
Date: 04/17/18

86 Vincent Dr.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $235,000
Buyer: Melvin Diaz
Seller: John P. Callahan
Date: 04/20/18



464 Bay Road
Amherst, MA 01002
Amount: $231,900
Buyer: Faranak Seihoun
Seller: Virginia L. Espeland
Date: 04/18/18

30 Boltwood Walk
Amherst, MA 01002
Amount: $450,000
Buyer: Downstairs LLC
Seller: PVP Holdings LLC
Date: 04/17/18

17 Fairfield St.
Amherst, MA 01002
Amount: $399,000
Buyer: Romain Vasseur
Seller: Julia M. Alexander
Date: 04/10/18

144 Glendale Road
Amherst, MA 01002
Amount: $242,900
Buyer: Benjamin Norrichs
Seller: MTGLQ Investors LP
Date: 04/13/18

55 Lilac Lane
Amherst, MA 01002
Amount: $472,000
Buyer: Katzman Coldham 2013 LT
Seller: Margaret C. Oakes
Date: 04/13/18

38 Maplewood Dr.
Amherst, MA 01002
Amount: $415,000
Buyer: Charlene Choi
Seller: Dean Brown
Date: 04/17/18

Red Gate Lane
Amherst, MA 01002
Amount: $175,000
Buyer: Alex K. Phakos
Seller: Jonathan S. Klate
Date: 04/17/18


77 Cheryl Circle
Belchertown, MA 01007
Amount: $484,900
Buyer: Shawn M. Nycz
Seller: Michael S. Kulik
Date: 04/10/18

70 Mill Valley Road
Belchertown, MA 01007
Amount: $250,000
Buyer: Lyn M. Banville
Seller: Shirley M. Dillard
Date: 04/20/18

10 Pine Brook Dr.
Belchertown, MA 01007
Amount: $192,000
Buyer: Amanda Beauregard
Seller: Paul E. Brissette
Date: 04/13/18

37 Rimrock Road
Belchertown, MA 01007
Amount: $330,000
Buyer: Adrian J. Manning
Seller: Dale E. Yvon
Date: 04/19/18

233 State St.
Belchertown, MA 01007
Amount: $215,000
Buyer: Amherst Court RT
Seller: Sydney Keyes-Thackeray
Date: 04/17/18


3 Carillon Circle
Easthampton, MA 01027
Amount: $391,700
Buyer: Neil Hede
Seller: Gertrude E. Hooks
Date: 04/11/18

40 Church St.
Easthampton, MA 01027
Amount: $131,080
Buyer: FNMA
Seller: Timothy S. Clark
Date: 04/13/18

14 Kenneth Road
Easthampton, MA 01027
Amount: $211,000
Buyer: Brian F. Bigda
Seller: Samantha L. Lheureux IRT
Date: 04/20/18

10 Pinebrook Dr.
Easthampton, MA 01027
Amount: $175,000
Buyer: Michael E. Fregeau
Seller: US Bank
Date: 04/18/18

53-55 Ridgewood Terrace
Easthampton, MA 01027
Amount: $289,000
Buyer: Joseph Darby-O’Brien
Seller: Thomas A. Porter
Date: 04/20/18

88 West St.
Easthampton, MA 01027
Amount: $246,000
Buyer: Frank R. Talarico
Seller: Ross J. Krause
Date: 04/12/18


111 North St.
Granby, MA 01033
Amount: $268,500
Buyer: Kevin H. Miele
Seller: David P. Wing
Date: 04/09/18


15 Maple Ave.
Hadley, MA 01035
Amount: $368,000
Buyer: Ethan W. Percy
Seller: Gregory M. Mish
Date: 04/20/18

72 Russell St.
Hadley, MA 01035
Amount: $249,000
Buyer: Donald R. Dion
Seller: Sandra Houghton
Date: 04/20/18


186 Linseed Road
Hatfield, MA 01088
Amount: $297,500
Buyer: Jay Messer
Seller: William D. Harlow
Date: 04/10/18


8 Crescent St.
Huntington, MA 01050
Amount: $167,000
Buyer: Scott B. Capponcelli
Seller: Jane F. Martone
Date: 04/13/18


1300 Burts Pit Road
Northampton, MA 01062
Amount: $365,000
Buyer: Mark A. Blais
Seller: Joe Hamill
Date: 04/19/18

87 Chesterfield Road
Northampton, MA 01053
Amount: $335,000
Buyer: Melissa A. Fowler
Seller: Erika M. Hernandez
Date: 04/13/18

211 Chestnut St.
Northampton, MA 01062
Amount: $246,000
Buyer: Suzanne R. Starling
Seller: Murray Melbin
Date: 04/12/18

259 Elm St.
Northampton, MA 01060
Amount: $2,250,000
Buyer: Ellery Owner LLC
Seller: Atwood Drive LLC
Date: 04/11/18

61 Ford Xing
Northampton, MA 01060
Amount: $530,000
Buyer: Jill Meyers
Seller: Peter Fliss
Date: 04/20/18

90 Haydenville Road
Northampton, MA 01053
Amount: $430,000
Buyer: Aba Properties LLC
Seller: SSTT LLC
Date: 04/10/18

63 Maple St.
Northampton, MA 01062
Amount: $290,000
Buyer: 63 Maple Street LLC
Seller: Tom Masters
Date: 04/18/18

8 Middle St.
Northampton, MA 01062
Amount: $451,000
Buyer: Anne-Liesl Swogger
Seller: Nora R. Kalina
Date: 04/18/18

6 Villone Dr.
Northampton, MA 01053
Amount: $340,000
Buyer: Kelcie M. Cooke
Seller: Maureen B. Szawlowski
Date: 04/17/18


8 Bray Court
Pelham, MA 01002
Amount: $238,500
Buyer: Harry H. Brakeley
Seller: Christopher J. Wells
Date: 04/19/18


32 Boynton Ave.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $261,000
Buyer: Mary T. Quesnel
Seller: Alliso Marshall-Beaudoin
Date: 04/20/18

33 Boynton Ave.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $275,000
Buyer: Lauren E. Obregon
Seller: Matthew Gage
Date: 04/13/18

65 Hadley St.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $205,000
Buyer: Randy Barthelette
Seller: George J. Langevin RET
Date: 04/17/18

11 Landers St.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $195,000
Buyer: Alexander J. Rossi
Seller: Dennis Hogan
Date: 04/18/18

60 Michael Dr.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $360,000
Buyer: Catherine M. Scribner
Seller: Raymond E. Rondeau
Date: 04/12/18

128 Newton St.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $282,500
Buyer: Daniel T. Laing
Seller: Carolyn L. Couture
Date: 04/13/18

42 San Souci Dr.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $515,000
Buyer: Lisa Ball-Russo
Seller: Thomas W. Senecal
Date: 04/13/18

54 San Souci Dr.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $515,000
Buyer: Lisa Ball-Russo
Seller: Thomas W. Senecal
Date: 04/13/18

23 Saybrook Circle
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $205,000
Buyer: Brandyn Boroski
Seller: Andrew Frawley
Date: 04/10/18

54 Sunset Ave.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $150,000
Buyer: Norma I. Fontanez
Seller: Deborah A. Church
Date: 04/17/18


34 Strong Road
Southampton, MA 01073
Amount: $401,000
Buyer: Kathryn A. Przybyszewski
Seller: Brian F. Bigda
Date: 04/19/18


24 Berkshire Circle
Ware, MA 01082
Amount: $117,481
Buyer: Corey Tavernier
Seller: HSBC Bank
Date: 04/12/18


DBA Certificates Departments

The following business certificates and trade names were issued or renewed during the month of April 2018.


Amherst Enterprise Park
441 West St.
Leigh Andrews

Domain Masonry, LLC
86 Kellogg Ave.
Christopher Domain

Golden 3 Counseling Services
447 West St., Suite 3
Brittanie Jemes

Gorilla Tactics
145 University Dr., #3541
Jesse Crafts-Finch

J. Hurd & Associates
220 North Pleasant St.
Jason Hurd

J. Shefftz Consulting
14 Moody Field Road
Jonathan Shefftz

Jennifer Lefort, PhD
15 Linden Ridge Road
Jennifer Lefort


Morning Star Graphics
238 Rockrimmon St.
Roger Duffy, Natalia Duffy


The Chinese Kung Fu Wushu Academy
551 East St.
Binh Nguyen

Electra-Sounds Entertainment
5 Julia Ave.
William Butman Jr.

First Stop Grocery
830 Chicopee St.
Sudan Curiel

Generations Salon
588 Chicopee St.
Lisa Carlson

JWI Kitchens, LLC
374 Springfield St.
Ivelesse Perez

MamaRazzi Photography Inc.
165 Front St., Building D
Jenna Medina, Jacqueline Slatton

Meraki Salon
685 James St.
Christine Peacey

165 Front St., Building D
Jenna Medina, Jacqueline Slatton

Serenity Salon & Spa
472 Burnett Road
Alison Metcalfe

Style and Grace Hair Studios
1735 Westover Road
Ruben Camacho Jr.

WP-HL Foundation
16 America St.
Edward Fulke


Brian Harrison
1 Nashawannuck St.
Brian Harrison

C.R.P. Home Improvement
73 Glendale St.
Corey Pease

28 Golden Dr.
Christopher Cabrini

Furs A Flyin
155R Northampton St.
MaryKate Murray

Pressplayhouse Duds
312 Main St.
Matthew Goldman

116 Pleasant St., #334
Charlie Shew


Dreamscape Properties
20 Somerset St.
Marco Basile

G & A Import Auto Repair
41 Fisher Ave.
Alfonso Gioiella

McRae Consulting Solutions
57 Merriam St.
Mary McRae


Aeropostale #112
50 Holyoke St.
Aero Opco, LLC

The Clover Pub
102-104 High St.
Michael Rigali

Creative Concepts
24 Old Jarvis Ave.
Thomas Kennedy

Giggles Daycare
53 Argyle Ave.
Siobhan Sullivan

The Honey Pot
264 Sargeant St.
Jocelyn Poirier

Hyperperformance Cuts, LLC
118 Maple St.
Hanser Perez

Mocha Emporium
50 Holyoke St.
Adel Wahhas

Quick Stop
172 Sargeant St.
Tariq Aziz Khan

Reliable Computer
867 Main St.
Daniel Deschaine

Taste Freeze
915 Main St.
Daniel Rios

Your Brother-in-Law’s Handiman Services
33 Clerk St.
Joshua Silva


EDV Home Design and Renovation
121 Willow Brook Road
Elaine D’Alleva-Vehse

17 Barrington Road
Nora MacKay, Mark Fellows


The Beauty Studio Boutique Inc.
393 East St.
Marsia Nogueira, Kristen Bousquet


Absolute Zero
229 Main St.
Meng Qin Wang

C.L. Frank & Co.
50 Cooke Ave.
Christopher Frank

Chill Harmonics
39 Main St., Suite 3
Pamela Smith

Christopher Foley Painting
68 Bradford St., Apt. B
Christopher Foley

Compass Community Education Center
221 Pine St., Suite 320
Shelly Risinger, Elena Allee

Couples Center of the Pioneer Valley
182 Main St., #202
Katherine Waddell

38 Main St.
Endamian Stewart, Robert Stewart

Hygeniks Inc.
106 Industrial Dr.
Todd Marchefka

Joel Russell Associates
16 Armory St., Suite 7
Joel Russell

90 Maple St.
Tami Schirch

Metalmass Records
670B Haydenville Road
Kristian Strom

MG Coaching Services
98 Pine St., Unit 6
Martha Grinnell

New England Medical Consultants Inc.
124 Maple Ridge Road
Matthew Kane, Ann Markes

Northampton Golden Nozzle #04082
304 King St.
Nouria Energy Retail Inc.

Robinson Real Estate
35C State St.
Steven Slezek

Room 6 Salon & Nails
140 Pine St., #6
Melanie Burnett

State Street Fruit Store, Deli, Wines & Spirits
51 State St.
Richard Cooper


JKL Liquid Asphalt
244 Burlingame Road
Raymond Croteau

Marlene’s Beauty Salon
1461 North Main St.
Jean Ciukaj

Tranquility Central
1384 Main St.
Kathleen Jett


Humble N’Kind D-Sign
352 North Loomis St.
Elizabeth Vivier

Total Home Services
445 College Highway
Geno Whitehead


413 Video Productions
40 Edgewood St.
Aaron Williams

All Seasons Basement Dewatering Inc.
45 Jamestown Dr.
James Kelly

Around the Clock Adult Home Care
130 Fenwick St.
Linda Sheehan

Aer Wireless
119 Maplewood Terrace
Wi4me, LLC

Banh Mi Mia
461 Belmont Ave.
Hung Nguyen

Grez Automotive, LLC
604 Boston Road
Pan Siphanoum

Hariss Beauty
20 Arnold Ave.
Brittany Franco

House of Lockhart
89 Hyde Ave.
Ramon Albizu

J M Towing
56 Loring St.
Jerry Martinez

La Marguencita Bakery
755 Liberty St.
Lorena Vicente

Little Luv Bugs Day Care
24 Mayfair Ave.
Judy Williams

Ma Chere Creole Kitchen
94 Pennsylvania Ave.
Michael Guidry

527 Belmont St.
Heewon Yang

Montalvo Trucking
48 Appleton St.
Victor Montalvo

Mzion Corp.
1341 Main St.
Ni Si Kim

Northeast Mountain Footwear
459 Breckwood Blvd.
Algeni Enterprises

Rex Ambrosia, LLC
145 Ambrose St.
Glenn Mills

Rock Bottom Records
114 Cardinal St.
Abdul Ibrahim Jr.

Trinity Health of New England
271 Carew St.
Mercy Medical Group

Vladmierj Tailor
66 Dickinson St.
Thuy Fuda


Blissful Moments Hair Skin Body Studio
89 Main St., Suite 4
Tenah Richardson

Dance Unlimited MA
23 West Main St.
Mary Royer

Lost & Found Mercantile
85 Main St.
Kristin Rosenbeck, Dennis Cote

Miss Sue’s Place
42 Greenwich Road
Susan Flamand

Murphy’s Painting
197 River Road
Cole Murphy

Western Mass Home Improvement
81 Greenwich Road
Christopher Wiggin


Affordable Building Contractor
26 Northridge Road
David Wroblewski

Ace Photography
29 Beckwith Ave.
Nicholas Ventura

MAR Consulting
83 Pineridge Dr.
Mona Rastegar

Power Control Services & Electric Inc.
227 Loomis St.
Power Control Services & Electric Inc.


Arbella Insurance Group
1 Interstate Dr.
Arbella Insurance Group

B+ Clean-Outs
10 Elizabeth St.
Joseph Switzler

Ballard Mack Sales & Service
124 Ashley Ave.
John Picking

Custom Railings Tech Inc.
117 Allston Ave.
Armand Cote

Energia Massage
1111 Elm St.
Tatiana McCoy

Holiday Flowers
69 Angeline St.
Joan Marino

Olympia Junior Hockey
125 Capital Dr.
Patrick Tabb

Plato’s Closet
1472 Riverdale St.
Kathleen White

Springfield Inn
1573 Riverdale St.
Dilip Rana

Wendy’s #292
288 Park St.
Inspired By

Wendy’s #318
644 Riverdale St.
Inspired By


Barone’s Landscaping
375 Mountain Road
Nicholas Barone

BJC Consulting
9 Whitford Place
Barry Christman

C & S Construction
9 Meadowview Road
Christian Mills

Trinity Health of New England Medical Group
70 Post Office Park
Carlos Martins

Company Notebook Departments

Webber & Grinnell Acquires Ross Insurance

NORTHAMPTON — Ross Insurance agency of Holyoke has been acquired by Webber and Grinnell Insurance Agency of Northampton. Maureen Ross O’Connell will continue to manage the Holyoke operation at 150 Lower Westfield Road in Holyoke under the name of Ross, Webber and Grinnell Insurance. Kevin Ross plans on retiring sometime over the next 18 months. “Ross Insurance is synonymous with community and trust,” said Bill Grinnell, president of Webber and Grinnell. “We are thrilled to have their staff joining our team and enabling us to serve clients across the entire Pioneer Valley. Kevin and Maureen are incredible insurance professionals, and I look forward to Maureen joining our ownership group.” Added Ross O’Connell, “we feel that we found the perfect partner to continue the Ross family legacy. Webber and Grinnell has a long history of generous community support and exceptional customer service.”

Westfield Bank to Open Liberty Street Office

SPRINGFIELD — Westfield Bank announced it will open a full-service branch office at 1342 Liberty St. in Springfield in July. When it opens, the Liberty Street office, which currently has a 24-hour ATM, will be operated as a full-service branch featuring lobby and drive-up banking, a drive-up ATM, and banking specialists trained to assist customers with business banking, residential mortgages, and investment and insurance services (via Westfield Financial Management Services). Construction is already underway, with renovations expected to be completed in late June or early July. Roberta Lussier, who currently oversees the bank’s Tower Square office, will also manage the Liberty Street office. Westfield Bank plans to celebrate the opening of the Liberty Street office with special events and promotions, which will be announced at a later date.

Spacelabs Invests $720,000 in UMass Center Nursing Program

SPRINGFIELD — Spacelabs Healthcare, a Snoqualmie, Wash.-based medical-equipment manufacturer, recently unveiled a $720,000 investment in the UMass Center at Springfield’s nursing laboratory. The state-of-the-art Spacelabs equipment includes two Sonicaid fetal/maternal monitors, ambulatory blood-pressure monitors, multiple nursing monitors, and invasive cardiac outputs that will benefit the UMass Amherst College of Nursing’s accelerated bachelor of science in nursing program, which serves as a pipeline for rained nurses into the region’s healthcare sector. The equipment will be primarily used by UMass Amherst nursing students in the accelerated program, which is based in Springfield.

Tighe & Bond Climbs in National Ranking

WESTFIELD — Tighe & Bond, a full-service engineering and environmental consulting firm, climbed 19 spots this year to No. 241 on Engineering News Record’s “2018 Top 500 Design Firms” ranking. In the past two years, Tighe & Bond climbed 34 spots as the firm continues to grow its regional market. The publication ranks its list of top 500 design firms nationally based on design-specific revenue from the previous year.

Valley Blue Sox Announce New Ownership

SPRINGFIELD — The Valley Blue Sox announced that Hadley native Fred Ciaglo has taken over the reins as team owner and president from the departing Clark Eckhoff. Ciaglo has been a long-time part of the Valley Blue Sox, hosting players for the past seven years and as a bench coach for the last four years. He has been involved with baseball in the Valley since he was able to throw a ball, playing at Hopkins Academy in Hadley and then at Springfield College, helping pitch the Pride to the 1986 Northeast-10 championship when the school competed in Division II athletics. Ciaglo was a staple of the Tri-County Baseball League for more than 20 years, twice winning the league’s Wes Carr Trophy for best pitcher. He has taught and coached at Hopkins Academy since graduating from Springfield, coaching boys and girls basketball as well as baseball over that time; in addition, he spent a decade as Hadley Youth Baseball’s coaching coordinator and on the board of directors for the Cal Ripken level. Vice President and General Manager Hunter Golden will stay on with the team and remain in his role. Also returning this season will be Manager John Raiola, who will return for his fourth season as head coach, as well as pitching coach Jim Woods. Joining the coaching staff, former Blue Sox player Hezekiah Randolph will serve as hitting coach for the team.

Country Bank Donates $15,000 to Domestic Violence Task Force

WARE — Country Bank announced that it recently donated $15,000 to the Ware River Valley Domestic Violence Task Force to support its continued commitment to helping those in need in the Quaboag Hills Region. “Country Bank’s donation has been the foundation of all local domestic-violence services at Valley Human Services of BHN Inc. in the Quaboag Hills,” said Jac Patrissi, director of Domestic Violence Services at Valley Human Services. “Their funds have been the seed money and remain the match for programs now supported by municipal, state, and federal dollars. We literally would not have our team preventing and responding to domestic violence in our region without Country Bank.”

Berkshire Hills Bancorp Reports 63% Increase in Q1 Earnings

BOSTON — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc. reported first-quarter 2018 net income of $25 million, a 63% increase over the 2017 first-quarter results of $15 million. This reflected the ongoing benefit of the company’s growth and expansion, together with the benefit of a lower federal tax rate resulting from federal tax reform. “We had a solid start to the year, delivering ongoing growth while integrating our new commerce operations,” CEO Michael Daly said. “With the benefit of greater efficiency, GAAP return on assets improved to 0.88%, and core return on assets improved to 1.04%. We expect continued momentum in the second quarter, where GAAP return on assets will improve to over 1.00% and core return on assets will improve to over 1.10%.” The board of directors declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.22 per common share to shareholders of record at the close of business on May 10, payable on May 24. The dividend equates to a 2.3% annualized yield based on the $37.88 average closing price of Berkshire Hills Bancorp common stock during the first quarter. The board also declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.44 per share for the preferred stock issued in conjunction with the Commerce acquisition, with the same record and payment dates as above. The quarterly common and preferred dividends were increased in the prior quarter by 5%.

Girls on the Run Nominated for Award

NORTHAMPTON — The Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN) announced that Girls on the Run Western Massachusetts has been selected a finalist for the 2018 Nonprofit Excellence Award in the Small Nonprofit category. The Excellence Awards will be presented at the Massachusetts State House on Monday, June 4. The Small Nonprofit Excellence Award recognizes an organization making an outsized impact in its community despite limited resources. Girls on the Run inspires girls to be healthy, joyful, and confident, using an experiential, social-emotional curriculum that integrates running. In its third year of operation, Girls on the Run has 180 volunteer coaches, including teachers, parents, and community members operating at 54 school sites serving over 740 girls. To date, Girls on the Run has served more than 1,200 girls around Western Mass.

Chili Chocolate Chip Wins UMass Ice Cream Competition

AMHERST — The winning flavor in this year’s UMass Amherst student ice-cream competition is chili chocolate chip, as selected by judges in the fourth annual food-science event held on campus April 30. It will become the latest UMass student-created ice cream produced by Maple Valley Creamery of Hadley over the coming weeks, said owner Bruce Jenks. For the event, creamery staff, local chefs, and guest judges sampled original ice creams created by four teams of senior food-science majors vying for the honor of developing a new flavor for the UMass label. The three other entries in this spring’s competition were a butternut squash flavor with lemon zest, ginger, turmeric, and semi-sweet chocolate bits; a chocolate banana graham-cracker flavor; and a strawberry-basil flavor with dark chocolate pieces. The strawberry-basil, dubbed ‘summer blush’ by its creators, won the audience’s vote for best flavor, and Jenks said he may make a seasonal batch of it in the summer. Members of the winning chili chocolate chip team are Marina Gela, Gina Grimaldi, Rachael Montigny, Joshua Liao, Erica Snyder, and Jozxelle Tongson.

ESE Donates $240,000 to Big E/West Springfield Trust Fund

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Eastern States Exposition President and CEO Eugene Cassidy presented a donation of $240,198 to the Big E/West Springfield Trust Fund in a ceremony held at Town Hall on April 18. The amount, the largest to date since the fund’s inception in 1994, represents 1% of the Exposition’s gross revenues for 2017. Including this year’s gift, exposition contributions now total $3,999,669. During the presentation of this year’s check, Cassidy pledged a personal donation of $331 to bring the total to an even $4 million. Trustees of the fund are West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt, Cassidy, and Attorney Mary Paier Powers. Grants in 2017 totaled more than $63,209 for 15 town organizations, schools, sports teams, and more.

Arrha Credit Union Awards Five Scholarships

SPRINGFIELD — Arrha Credit Union recently awarded five $1,000 scholarships to area students based on scholastic merit and civic achievement. To be eligible for the Anthony J. Serafino Scholarship, recipients must demonstrate scholastic achievement, be a high-school senior, be a member of Arrha or a student whose parent is a member, be active in extracurricular activities and community endeavors, and intend to attend a two-year or four-year degree-granting college or university. The 2018 recipients are A’Shaela Chaires from Williston Northampton School, Kimberly McLeod from Longmeadow High School, Patricia Moriarty from Phillips Exeter Academy, Owen Serafino from West Springfield High School, and Tamra Zippin from Minnechaug Regional High School. In addition to the scholarships, each student was given $100 to open an account with a debit card to jump-start their financial future on a positive note. “We wish each of our recipients the best of luck with their educational endeavors,” said Michael Ostrowski, president and CEO of Arrha Credit Union.

Banking and Financial Services Sections

Addition by Addition

While there are plenty of banks doing business in this region, Jeff Sullivan says, there is an opportunity for a new one that is based locally.

While there are plenty of banks doing business in this region, Jeff Sullivan says, there is an opportunity for a new one that is based locally.


Jeff Sullivan has spent more than 30 years working in and around the region’s banking community, most recently as chief operating officer for United Bank.

So he understands fully when people use that term ‘overbanked’ to describe this area. In fact, he’s used that word himself over the years as he’s watched branches proliferate in a host of area communities.

But over the past few years as he’s done consulting work for the industry after leaving United following its merger with Connecticut-based Rockville Bank, Sullivan says he’s come to understand that just because there are branches on almost every corner in some cities and towns, that doesn’t mean the region’s population — and especially certain segments of it — are adequately served.

“There’s plenty of good local banks around,” he told BusinessWest. “But there is opportunity, because the largest financial institution based in the city of Springfield now is a credit union. So there is opportunity for a Springfield-based institution with local decision making.

“I was getting asked by a lot of people — individuals I would just bump into on the street or in the supermarket — ‘can you send me to a good lender?’ or ‘can you give me a good bank to go to?’ or ‘are you going back to work? I need to make a switch,’ he went on. “After that happened 10 or 12 times in a relatively short period of time, I began to think there was room for a new bank.”

And these sentiments, grounded in what Sullivan considers more scientific analysis and sound due diligence, has led him to partner with attorney Frank Fitzgerald and Jim Garvey, owner of St. James Check Cashing, to begin the process of adding a new bank to the landscape.

It will be called New Valley Bank & Trust, the partners announced late last week, adding that the team is now seeking approval from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) to form the new institution before launching a capital raise aimed at amassing $25 million to $30 million.

This will be the first new bank launched in the area since NUVO Bank (since acquired by Community Bank) opened in 2008. New Valley Bank & Trust almost certainly will open in better economic conditions — NUVO had the misfortune of launching just as the country was heading into the Great Recession — and it will have a different model, said Sullivan.

Indeed, while NUVO was focused on a mostly digital banking model — it has just one branch, in downtown Springfield — New Valley will have slightly more of a brick-and-mortar foundation, he explained.

It will be headquartered in downtown Springfield and will start with a full-service branch somewhere in the city (the location has not been determined) and a second location on the west side of the Connecticut River (again, that community has not been chosen) within a year after opening.

New Valley, like most banks now doing business in this region, will offer a full range of business and retail banking services for residents and small to medium-sized businesses in Massachusetts and Northern Conn.

Like NUVO, though, this proposed new institution will focus considerable energy on commercial lending, said Sullivan, who has spent most of his career in that realm. Despite stern competition in the commercial market and a huge number of established players, he sees room for opportunity.

That opportunity — on both the commercial and residential sides of the ledger — results from the spate of mergers and acquisitions in recent years, he told BusinessWest, an ongoing development that has decreased the population of community banks and, as he noted, left Springfield without a bank headquartered within its boundaries.

“With fewer local banks servicing the region, we have heard from countless residents and small to medium-sized business owners that are looking for a level of customer service and credit that is simply not available in the market today,” Sullivan said in a press release announcing formation of New Valley. “Our focus will be on meeting this demand with personalized attention and cutting-edge technology that will shorten wait times for funding decisions and opening accounts.”

On the commercial side, the bank will focus on smaller loans and quick turn-around times, said Sullivan, adding that the mergers in recent years have created opportunities to meet a specific niche.

“We have a lot of good banks around here, but they’ve grown to a larger size,” he explained. “And they’re focusing on larger deals than they probably did 10 years ago. I think there’s a real opening for personal service being delivered to small businesses.”

But another point of emphasis for New Valley will be what Sullivan described as a still-large population of area households that are “unbanked and underbanked.”

Elaborating, he said research continues to show that the volume of business at check-cashing establishments has remained fairly stable — and comparatively high — in this region, despite considerable improvement in the economy over the past decade.

Sullivan and his partners estimate there are some 20,000 households in Hampden County alone that use a bank sparingly, if at all, and in these numbers, he sees more opportunity in the form of need for a new bank.

“These are working women and men whose barrier to entry into the banking system has been too high for too long,” her went on. “As a local bank, we want to find opportunities to serve this significant segment of our community and create lifelong customers in the process.”

Elaborating, Sullivan noted that, in many cases, individuals or households don’t use banks because of a lack of trust or because of a bad experience — or several.

“The biggest reason, the FDIC says, is lack of trust,” he explained. “They don’t trust the system. People have had bad experiences; they got kicked when they were down, and it’s led to a lack of trust.”

In response, New Valley will offer products and services designed to build trust, he went on, such as bounce-proof checking accounts, incentivized savings accounts, and financial-literacy programs.

Sullivan said the need for a new, locally based, bank can be verified by the makeup of the 60 founding sponsors — what he described as a “large and diverse group of business owners and entrepreneurs from throughout the region — and the enthusiasm shown for the concept, especially among young business owners.

That’s significant, he said, because they will have to be the backbone of the customer base moving forward.

“We decided that, if we were going to do this, it has to be about a younger generation of business cohort,” he explained. “So we needed to know if the Millennials and the Gen-Ys care enough about this kind of stuff.

“We had a series of focus groups — we put about 100 people in a room, 20 people at a time, and we pitched them on what we were trying to do,” he went on. “About 60 people wrote checks to give us the seed money to get started, and of those 60, close to half of them were people under the age of 45. We were pleasantly surprised by that, and based on that response, we decided to take things to the next level, which is where we are today.”

—George O’Brien

Daily News

FLORENCE — Whole Children is bringing some inclusive family fun to Look Park with its fourth annual Wild Goose Chase 5K and kids’ carnival on Sunday, May 20 from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. There will be events for all ages and abilities, including a chip-timed 5K race, a 1.2-mile fun run/walk/roll, and plenty of kids’ races. The Expandable Brass Band will keep the pace with their festive music as the racers head out on the course.

After the racing is done, a carnival will feature horse-drawn wagon rides with Muddy Brook Draft, hula hooping with Hoop Joy’s Stephanie O’Keeffe, yo-yoing and other games with A2Z Science and Learning Store, games, face-painting, music, and more. Whole Children’s Joyful Chorus and its Friendship Band will also be on hand to entertain the crowd. Food trucks from Holyoke Hummus Co., Corsello Butcheria, Dog Father, Chill Out, and Barts Ice Cream will serve up food and treats.

Whole Children is a grassroots organization started by parents that offers a wide range of after-school, weekend, and vacation enrichment programs for children of all ages and abilities, particularly those with special needs. With more than 90 classes a year, Whole Children provides everything from theater to sports programs for close to 800 families in the Valley. Whole Children is a program of Pathlight Inc.

All proceeds from the Wild Goose Chase support Whole Children’s inclusive programs for kids and teens of all abilities. The Wild Goose Chase is made possible with support from Health New England, Smith Brothers Insurance, River Valley Co-op, and Easthampton Savings Bank.

To register for the race or for more information, visit www.wholechildren.org or call (413) 585-8010.

Daily News

CHICOPEE — To meet a growing demand for legal studies education in Western Mass., Elms College announced the launch of two fully online certificate programs in legal studies to begin in the fall 2018 semester: the advanced paralegal certificate and the paralegal studies certificate in legal nurse consulting.

Students in these certificate tracks will learn about the legal profession and their ethical obligations within it; develop relevant critical thinking skills, including how to form sound and well-based judgments; and build effective oral, written, and interpersonal communication skills.

“Elms College is committed to educating paralegals and providing them with a foundational skill set that lets them enter the profession with a quality, foundational skill set for their profession,” said Kurt Ward, director of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies at Elms College. “Each certificate program offers courses that apply to a variety of paralegal positions and is tailored for specific areas by including specialized coursework.”

Students in the advanced paralegal certificate track will acquire knowledge in law-specific subjects and develop skills that will help them advance in the legal profession, including technological proficiency with law-office-specific software and online research. They also will gain a skill set suitable for legal work, including interviewing clients and witnesses; completing various legal forms, legal research, legal writing, and case and statutory analysis; and providing litigation preparation and support.

A legal nurse consultant (LNC) is a registered nurse who possesses both medical and legal knowledge, and works with legal professionals on cases involving medical issues, such as medical malpractice, personal injury, product liability, or workers’ compensation. LNCs function in two main roles: as consulting experts or as testifying experts.

Whether as an in-house employee or independent consultant, the LNC offers a wide range of professional services, including interviewing clients; screening cases for merit; analyzing and summarizing medical records and other evidence; researching and evaluating medical literature; assisting in preparation for and evaluation of depositions; identifying, locating, screening, and consulting medical experts; and preparing exhibits for settlement hearings or trials.

“The best candidates for the legal nurse consulting track are licensed nurses who are looking to move into consulting with attorneys who practice medical malpractice, personal injury, or insurance law,” Ward said.

These two certificate tracks can be completed in less than one year, 100% percent online, by completing three eight-week sessions.

For the advanced paralegal certificate track, each applicant should have an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. No specific major area of study is required. The paralegal studies certificate in legal nurse consulting requires that each applicant hold an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree as well as a current license to practice as a registered nurse; they also must have completed 2,000 hours of clinical practice as a registered nurse.

Daily News

NORTHAMPTON — Ross Insurance agency of Holyoke has been acquired by Webber and Grinnell Insurance Agency of Northampton. Maureen Ross O’Connell will continue to manage the Holyoke operation at 150 Lower Westfield Road in Holyoke under the name of Ross, Webber and Grinnell Insurance. Kevin Ross plans on retiring sometime over the next 18 months.

“Ross Insurance is synonymous with community and trust,” said Bill Grinnell, president of Webber and Grinnell. “We are thrilled to have their staff joining our team and enabling us to serve clients across the entire Pioneer Valley. Kevin and Maureen are incredible insurance professionals, and I look forward to Maureen joining our ownership group.”

Added Ross O’Connell, “we feel that we found the perfect partner to continue the Ross family legacy. Webber and Grinnell has a long history of generous community support and exceptional customer service.”

Ross Insurance was founded by George Ross in 1925 and has continuously served the insurance needs of residents and businesses in Holyoke and surrounding communities for three generations. Webber and Grinnell’s company roots can be traced back to 1849 when E.W. Thayer opened an insurance and real-estate storefront on Pleasant Street in Northampton. Together, the company will employ 41 people and serve more than 6,000 clients.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Consolidated Health Plans (CHP) has hired insurance and financial-services executive James Ocampo, who will lead development, sales growth, earnings growth, strategy development, and operational execution across the company’s emerging Group and Voluntary Benefits line of products. Ocampo will also be responsible for developing and maintaining affiliations with private exchanges, enrollment systems, benefit-administration platforms, and third-party administrators.

Ocampo, who holds an MBA in finance and strategy from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, will drive the development and implementation of CHP’s newest business venture.

“I’m tremendously excited for this opportunity to work at CHP, a leader in the healthcare space, to build a group and voluntary benefits business from the ground up,” said Ocampo. “Backed by the financial strength of Berkshire Hathaway, CHP is uniquely positioned to capitalize on this growth opportunity in the marketplace, by providing a simple, engaging, and digitally focused customer-engagement experience that will differentiate CHP from its competitors in the employee benefits space.”

Ocampo came to CHP following a five-year tenure at MassMutual, where he served as vice president of Worksite Insurance, responsible for strategy and operations of voluntary and executive benefit products, and developed MassMutual’s benefit enrollment and administration platform, BeneClick! Prior to MassMutual, he was the senior director of Strategy & Analytics at Optum subsidiary Executive Health Resources, a division of UnitedHealth Group. He also has considerable experience in management consulting and business development, serving a variety of Fortune 500 clients in the communications, healthcare, and life-sciences industries.

“CHP has high expectations for James as we build our world-class group and voluntary employee benefit program,” said Drew DiGiorgio, CHP’s president and CEO. “James’ skills and leadership will lead CHP’s strategic execution and innovation within the voluntary-benefits space.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Westfield Bank announced it will open a full-service branch office at 1342 Liberty St. in Springfield in July. When it opens, the Liberty Street office, which currently has a 24-hour ATM, will be operated as a full-service branch featuring lobby and drive-up banking, a drive-up ATM, and banking specialists trained to assist customers with business banking, residential mortgages, and investment and insurance services (via Westfield Financial Management Services). Construction is already underway, with renovations expected to be completed in late June or early July.

“Opening our Liberty Street office reaffirms our longstanding commitment to the city of Springfield,” said Westfield Bank President and CEO James Hagan. “Coupled with our branch office and commercial banking center at Tower Square in downtown Springfield and our East Street office just over the Springfield line in Chicopee, we are better-positioned to deliver our products and services and provide added convenience for customers who live or work in the City of Homes.”

According to Hagan, Roberta Lussier, who currently oversees the bank’s Tower Square office, will also manage the Liberty Street office. “Roberta has over 35 years of banking experience and is in touch with the unique needs of retail and business customers in Springfield,” he said. “She knows this city extremely well and will be supported by a highly experienced team of retail and commercial bankers whose number one priority is to help our customers succeed.”

Westfield Bank plans to celebrate the opening of the Liberty Street office with special events and promotions, which will be announced at a later date.

“Opening at this location means a great deal to us, and we’re proud to do our part to help support Springfield’s economic renaissance,” Hagan said. “We look forward to opening this office and getting to meet our future customers.”

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

President, BKaye Realty and Insurance; Age 38; Education: BBA, Bluffton University

Bryan Kaye

Bryan Kaye

Western Mass. has always been home for Kaye. He has had careers in financial aid, property management, and banking, all while also building his real-estate business. In 2014, he left his position as vice president of Commercial Lending to focus on expanding his real-estate company. Since then, the company has added an insurance division, interior design, and a school for real-estate licensing. Ever-growing, BKaye’s mission is to help clients with all their real-estate needs with quality, integrity, and loyalty. In addition, Kaye has served local organizations including SCORE, Arrha Credit Union, and the East Longmeadow parade committee.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Believe it or not, I’ve wanted to own my own business since middle school.

How do you define success? Getting to the end of the race and hearing, “well done, good and faithful servant.”

What three words best describe you? Quality, integrity, loyalty.

What do you like most about Western Massachusetts? I love the diversity in places, people, cultures, food, and seasons. One minute, you can be in any number of downtowns with the typical inner-city vibe, and within 20 minutes, you can be in the middle of nowhere up in a hilltown or farmland.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? To do something that leaves an impact.

What goals have you set for yourself? To build an organization that helps people achieve their goals in life — whether it be in real estate, financial, or personally focused. We want to teach people to think outside of the box.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? He was unlike any other guy I’ve ever met.


The Trickle-down Effect

Rebeca Merigian, here with her son, Andrew Takorian

Rebeca Merigian, here with her son, Andrew Takorian, expects Park Cleaners’ contract with MGM to perhaps double the company’s current volume of business.

Rebeca Merigian says the slip was found, and promptly given to her, many years ago by a long-time customer, a description she quickly categorized as an obvious understatement.

Indeed, the date at the top is 1940, and thus this item, now displayed under glass, is a time capsule as much as it is a pick-up slip for a two-piece suit.

Start with the phone number at the top; there are just five digits because that’s all that were needed back then (ask your mother; actually, make that your grandmother). The name of the company was Park Cleaners & Dyers Inc. (the ‘& Dyers’ was dropped a long time ago because those services were discontinued). The address is Kensington Avenue in Springfield (the company moved to Allen Street in 1955). Even the slogan is different; back then it was ‘Dry cleaning as it should be done.’ Now, it’s ‘Family-owned and operated since 1935. We appreciate your business.’

Yes, much has changed since Edward Takorian, an Armenian who somehow escaped the genocide of 1915 and came to this country soon thereafter, went into business for himself.

There have been many ups and downs, said Merigian, Takorian’s great-granddaughter, who started working in the business on Saturdays when she was 9 and bought it from her mother three years ago. She noted that the company was started at the height of the Great Depression and has endured many other downturns over the next eight decades, and also the early death of her father. Not so long ago, there were more than 20 people working here; now there are four, including Merigian’s son and nephew.

But that number will be rising soon, thanks to what would have to be one of the biggest developments since that suit was picked up a year before the U.S. entered World War II — a contract with MGM Springfield, the $960 million resort casino that will open in about four months.

Park Cleaners has been awarded a contract to clean the uniforms for all 3,000 employees at the casino, and for the dry-cleaning of hotel guests and the MGM Springfield management team as well. Merigian couldn’t put a dollar figure on the contract, but she could certainly put it into perspective.

“I’m hoping that this will double our business,” she told BusinessWest, adding that the contract could give her the means to perhaps double the current workforce and pay the kind of benefits that are currently beyond the company’s reach. “My goal from this is to be able to provide health insurance for my employees who have been with through a lot of the challenges; I want to give back to them and provide more benefits and incentives so we can grow.”

Several other area businesses now have contracts with MGM or are in the process of finalizing one. Most will not be as life-changing as the one received by Park Cleaners, but they are all significant in some way.

Nick Noblit

Nick Noblit says the contract with MGM gives Yankee Mattress a new top line for its deep list of clients.

Take Agawam-based Yankee Mattress, for example. The company was originally asked to supply mattresses for all the rooms in MGM’s Springfield hotel, an order that Nick Noblit, the company’s general manager, admitted was too big to handle at this time. But the company will make California kings for the larger, high-roller suites, an assignment that will give the company additional business and some hopefully effective marketing material.

Meanwhile, Holyoke-based Kittredge Equipment Co. has secured one of the bigger contracts — this one to provide kitchen appliances and supplies to the many businesses that will do business at the casino.

There have been other contracts signed, and there will be many more agreements inked in the weeks to come as the countdown to the grand opening continues, said Courtney Wenleder, vice president and chief financial officer for MGM Springfield. She told BusinessWest that, as part of its host-community agreement, the company is required to apportion a percentage of its receivables to local companies.

But the company is striving to do more than just meet that obligation, she said, adding that MGM is looking to take the company’s philosophy regarding diversity and apply it to its vendor list. And this translates into extending opportunities to women (Kittredge is also woman-owned), minorities, and small businesses in general.

“MGM has a commitment to diversity and partnering with local vendors,” she explained. “It’s all about building the community together; there’s a symbiotic relationship — if the community does well, we do well, and vice versa.”

For this issue, BusinessWest looks at how the trickle-down effect from MGM Springfield, which began with local contractors taking part in the construction of the complex, is gathering momentum in the form of contracts to supply everything from knives and forks to marketing services. And while doing that, we’ll also shine a spotlight on some intriguing local businesses that have, by and large, flown under the radar.

The Rest of the Story

Wenleder told BusinessWest that many factors go into MGM’s decisions about which vendors to do business with and what might give a certain enterprise an edge over whatever competition emerges.

They range from quality of service and customer satisfaction, obviously, to whether, as noted, the business is minority- or women-owned. But there are some intangibles, and sometimes a little luck, that comes into play.

To get that point across, she relayed the story about how MGM Springfield now rents several apartments downtown, and they’re used, among other things, to house company executives visiting Springfield for extended stays.

Kittredge Equipment Co. owner Wendy Webber, left, with sales representative Amanda Desautels

Kittredge Equipment Co. owner Wendy Webber, left, with sales representative Amanda Desautels. The company will supply MGM Springfield with everything from appliances to glassware.

MGM CEO William Hornbuckle is one of these executives, and on one of his stays, he slept so soundly and comfortably that he took note of the label on his mattress (Yankee), later commented to those at MGM Springfield’s headquarters about his experience, and essentially initiated steps that would eventually lead to the company getting a contract.

“Bill commented about what a great night’s sleep he had on that mattress, and that pretty much secured their position,” Wenleder recalled with a laugh, adding that it wasn’t all that simple, but that bit of serendipity certainly got the ball rolling.

And the mattress contract serves as a good example of how MGM is trying to do business locally when it can and when it’s appropriate, said MGM Springfield General Manager Alex Dixon.

He noted, as Wenleder did, that there are times when MGM will simply add the Springfield casino to some existing contracts it has in place to provide certain products and services to the company’s existing properties.

Playing cards and dice would be good examples of this, he said, adding that MGM already has manufacturers providing those products. And, for the most part, there is no local company that makes such items.

But even with those products, there may be some opportunities for local businesses, he went on, noting, for example, that most playing cards are destroyed soon after they’re used, and MGM Springfield will use a local company to handle that work.

“We want to recognize what’s available in the local market and then tailor our supply chain to match what is happening in the local community,” he said while describing the company’s broad mindset when it comes to vendors.

Overall, MGM has a process in place when it comes to vendors, said Dixon, adding that the company actively solicits information from companies interested in doing business with it. The owners and managers of such ventures are invited to attend outreach events (they’re posted on the MGM Springfield website, for example), and through such events, companies become part of a database the company refers to when it needs specific products or services.

“Whenever there’s a business need, we want to find out if there are vendors, preferably local, who can help us to fulfill those needs — that’s step one,” he explained. “But informally, being members of the community, you really develop relationships.

“It’s no longer ‘hey there’s this great local brewer,’” he went on, while explaining how these relationships are created. “Now it’s ‘that’s Ray Berry from White Lion; maybe there’s an opportunity there.’”

In other words, familiarity breeds opportunity, and examples abound of how companies ranging from local caterers and computer hardware providers have come onto MGM Springfield’s radar screen — and are now doing business with the company.

The contract with Yankee Mattress is a good example of this phenomenon at work, said Dixon, confirming that the company was first presented with a proposal to furnish every room in its hotel now taking shape on Main Street.

But Noblet said such a large order would have necessitated additional hiring and other steps the company wasn’t ready to take.

But the contract to supply mattresses for the larger suites is a welcome addition and positive development for the Agawam-based company, which has been gaining traction in recent years as word-of-mouth referrals about its products proliferate.

This is another family business, started by Nick’s father, Joe, who is still active in the venture. The elder Noblit worked for a major mattress manufacturer for several years before deciding he could make a better product, and at a lower price, himself. And he did.

Yankee was launched in 1999, and it has grown and evolved other the years, said Noblit, adding that it started with a storefront and adjacent assembly area in Agawam, and now has four stores in the region.

Those outlets carry a host of lines with those huge tags that are supposedly illegal to rip off, including the top-of-line Black Collection, with models including the York, Fairhaven, Merrimac, and Nantucket.

There is a strong residential component to the customer base, obviously, said Noblit, but also many commercial clients as well, including several area B&Bs, hotels, and inns, as well as some healthcare providers, a few private schools, and a host of area fire departments.

“We custom-build those to be stronger than average — because there are some big firefighters out there and it’s important for them to have something durable,” he explained, adding that word of mouth has been the best marketing tool when it comes to adding new lines to the customer list on the company’s website.

If one were to peruse that list, the name now at the very top is MGM Resorts International, an indication of how important this contract is, not size-wise, but from a marketing and branding standpoint.

“Most hotels have a contract with a major manufacturer, and across the board, they do business with this manufacturer, and they make all of their beds,” he explained. “So for MGM to consider someone outside these big manufacturers that are nationwide, that’s significant.”

Buying Power

But if MGM Springfield found Yankee Mattress thanks to Bill Horbuckle’s good night’s sleep, most of the other vendors have had to find the casino giant.

And ‘find’ means going through a process of introducing one’s company to MGM Springfield through one of a number of vendor meet-and-greets, for lack of a better term, that the company has staged, including one at last fall’s Western Mass. Business and Innovation Expo, staged by BusinessWest.

Courtney Wenleder

Courtney Wenleder says there’s a symbiotic relationship between MGM and local vendors; when they do well, the casino operator does well, and vice versa.

Through these outreach sessions, MGM is making it much easier for companies to find it, said Wenleder, adding that MGM Springfield has a three-person purchasing team (a manager and two assistants), and one of their primary responsibilities is to go out into the community and find local vendors.

“Even though we’ve been doing a lot of communication with people when it comes to local purchasing requirements, some people aren’t hearing that message,” she explained. “We have people on the ground physically reaching out to these vendors.”

Merigian said she started attending such outreach sessions not long after MGM was granted the Western Mass. license in 2014, recognizing the casino as a rare business opportunity.

“I had my sights on it from the beginning,” she told BusinessWest. You never know how it’s going to work out with companies renting their own uniforms or owning them, but either way, I knew I would like to be part of it.”

So much so that she took steps to become a certified woman-owned business, understanding from those very first meetings that MGM had a strong interest in doing business with businesses led by women and minorities.

There would be more meetings to come over the next few years, she went on, adding that these sessions were beneficial on many levels.

“It really gets you tuned into your business,” she said, using that phrase to indicate everything from capabilities to long-term goals to what it will take to reach them. “It was an educational experience on many levels.”

The volume of work is large — most all of the 3,000 employees will wear some kind of uniform, and this contract covers all that and more — and thus MGM will likely be the largest customer in Park’s long history, said Merigian, although Park did have a contract with MassMutual for a quarter-century and still has one with the Defense Department (Westover Air Reserve Base).

“We don’t have specific numbers, but know it will be high volume,” she said of the business to start coming her way in a matter of weeks as employees are added to the payroll in waves. “But we’re ready for it, and we can feel the excitement.”

Indeed, after her father’s death, the company had to withdraw from the MassMutual contract, and it downsized considerably, said Merigian, adding quickly, however, that “we’re ready to go; we’re ready to get back to work.”

At Kittredge, meanwhile, the MGM contract is another important step forward for that company, said Amanda Desautels, an outside sales representative now working with MGM to outfit the restaurants that will be doing business at the casino.

“This is a significant contract for us,” she said, noting that Kittredge will be supplying MGM with everything from appliances to bar equipment; glassware to silverware, and adding it to a client list that includes UMass Amherst, the Max restaurant group, and Mount Holyoke College, among many others.

The company, rapidly approaching its centennial (it was launched in 1921), started as a supplier of typewriters and cash registers and has evolved into a $50 million equipment and supply giant that now employs more than 70 people locally.

At its warehouse and retail facility in the Agawam Regional Industrial Park, one can find everything from industrial refrigerators, freezers, and stoves to dishes and glassware to individual carving knives. Desautels joked that the company provides everything that goes on the table, around it (furniture), and even under it. “If you have a wobbly table, we have table levelers.”

It also has certification as a woman-owned business (Wendy Webber succeeds her late husband, Neil, as owner and operator), a designation that has opened many doors for the company and no doubt played a role in securing the contract with MGM.

“Being a woman-owned business has created many opportunities for Kittredge, and MGM is obviously one of those,” said Desautels, noting that the addition of MGM to the client roster is significant in many respects. “It’s exciting to be doing business with a company like MGM that shares the same values we do, such as diversity and the importance of their employees.”

Pressing Engagement

As she posed for a few photos for BusinessWest, Merigian gathered her son, Andrew Takorian, and insisted that he be part of the picture.

Figuratively speaking, he has been for some time now, working at this establishment — like his mother, grandfather, and great-grandfather before him — while still in grade school.

He represents the fifth generation to carry a business card that says ‘Park Cleaners’ — or Park Cleaners & Dyers, as the case may be. The company has gone through a lot of change and evolution after the past eight and half decades, and many important developments.

Perhaps none were as big as the contract inked with MGM Springfield, which comes at a critical time and represents a huge opportunity for growth and security.

It’s just one example of the trickle-down effect that is now underway, and already changing the local business landscape in profound ways.

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

Departments People on the Move
Alexandra Fach

Alexandra Fach

Meghan Morton

Meghan Morton

Genevieve Brough, president of Finck & Perras Insurance Agency Inc., recently announced the firm has hired two new employees. Alexandra Fach and Meghan Morton will serve as personal-lines account managers. Fach will work in the firm’s Easthampton office, and Morton at the Florence location. Fach holds a bachelor’s degree in communication technology and visual communication and a master’s degree from Lesley University in Cambridge. She has worked in the industry since 2013 and also holds state insurance licensure. Morton is a certified insurance service representative and a certified insurance counselor. She holds state insurance licensure and has worked in the industry for six years.


Andrew Caires

Andrew Caires

Pathlight, a provider of services for residential and community services for people with intellectual disabilities, has named Andrew Caires its chief financial officer and vice president of Administration, effective April 9. Caires has significant experience in human services. He was the financial director for Hawthorn Services for 15 years. When Hawthorne merged with the Center for Human Development, he became CHD’s director of Fiscal Services. Most recently, he was the controller for the Williston Northampton School. Caires has a bachelor’s degree in business administration/accounting from Western New England University and an MBA from UMass Amherst. He has maintained his certified public accountant (CPA) designation. Pathlight has been providing programs and services to people with developmental disabilities since 1952. Its programs include residential homes, supports for independent living, family-based living, recreation, enrichment, employment supports, family resources, autism supports, and more.


Amanda Carpe

Amanda Carpe

The Gove Law Office announced that Amanda Carpe has joined the firm as an associate attorney focused on real-estate transactions, estate planning, and estate administration. Carpe earned her juris doctor from Western New England University in 2016. While in law school, she interned with Gove Law Office and for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, where she appeared on behalf of the Commonwealth in child-endangerment cases. She also clerked for Judge Charles Belsky. She began her career in Worcester, where she worked on complex estate planning, elder-law matters, guardianships and conservatorships petitions, and probate administrations.


Dean Brown

Dean Brown

Teresa Wurszt

Teresa Wurszt

Florence Bank announced recently that Dean Brown and Teresa Wurszt were named to the President’s Club for 2018. The honor recognizes superior performance, customer service, and overall contribution to Florence Bank. Brown, a card operations specialist in the Operations Department in the main branch in Florence, began work at Florence Bank in 2008. Wurszt, an assistant commercial loan administration manager in the main office in Florence, joined the bank in 2015. With nearly 20 years of banking experience, she was praised by her colleagues for her knowledge, collaboration, and dedicated work ethic.


Erika Gleason

Erika Gleason

Pathlight, a provider of residential and community services for people with intellectual disabilities and autism, named behavior specialist Erika Gleason as the first recipient of its Donald Fletcher Scholarship. The $5,000 scholarship, which will be awarded yearly, is meant to assist an employee in obtaining an undergraduate degree. A committee of Pathlight board members and staff made the selection after receiving applications from employees. The scholarship is named after Pathlight’s former Executive Director Donald Fletcher, who was committed to helping staff pursue their education. This scholarship is in addition to Pathlight’s current tuition-reimbursement program. Gleason started at Pathlight in 2013 as a direct support professional, supporting people with intellectual disabilities and intensive behavioral needs, but quickly moved up the Pathlight career ladder, becoming a behavioral specialist this year. In her new role, she is responsible for checking in with all of Pathlight’s residential homes, as well as conducting safety-training sessions that teach people how to support individuals with special needs. She is currently working toward an associate’s degree in psychology at Holyoke Community College. Her goal is to transfer to Westfield State University, where she hopes to earn her bachelor’s degree.


Gov. Charlie Baker announced Patrick Carnevale as director of the Governor’s Western Mass. Office in Springfield. Carnevale brings almost 20 years of experience in public service and will be the administration’s primary liaison between Western Mass. constituents and communities. With 18 years of public service in the Commonwealth, Carnevale has spent much of his career in emergency-preparedness response and recovery. He most recently served as regional manager for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), where he was responsible for emergency management in Central and Western Mass. Since 2002, he has held multiple roles in the State Emergency Operations Center, responding to natural disasters, developing and implementing municipal preparedness plans, allocating state and federal funding and grants, and improving emergency management in 161 communities. Carnevale graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and received his MBA from Western New England University. He also attended the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative and the National Preparedness Leadership in Homeland Security at Harvard University. He holds 14 certificates relating to emergency-preparedness disaster management from the Emergency Management Institute, the National Hurricane Center, and MEMA.

Chamber Corners Departments



(413) 499-1600

• May 7 to 17: Dream Auction. Grab great deals on theater tickets, spa services, dining certificates, and one-of-a-kind experiences in our online auction. Proceeds support the Berkshire Marketing Fund, which promotes the region as a destination for all seasons. Visit www.biddingforgood.com/berkshires.

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



(413) 253-0700

• May 3: Leaders as Readers, 12 noon, hosted by Pasta E Basta, 26 Main St., Amherst. This month in Leaders as Readers, we will be discussing Work It: Secrets of Success from the Boldest Women in Business by Carrie Kerpen. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/events/928353994013860 or e-mail [email protected].

• May 4: Lunch and Learn, “How to Protect Your Most Important Asset: Your Income,” 12 noon, hosted by Lord Jeffery Inn, 30 Boltwood Ave., Amherst. Sponsored by Hollister Insurance. Lunch will be provided. For details, e-mail [email protected].



(413) 594-2101

• May 10: Business After Hours, 4:30-6:30 p.m., hosted by Mercedes-Benz of Springfield, 295 Burnett Road, Chicopee. Kentucky Derby theme. Presented by Polish National Credit Union. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• May 16: Salute Breakfast, 7:15-9 a.m., at Munich Haus, 13 Center St., Chicopee. Chief greeter: Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos. Keynote Speaker: Kim Kenney-Rockwal, Elms MBA. Cost: $23 for members, $28 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• May 18: Chicopee Chamber of Commerce Annual Golf Tournament, 10 a.m. shotgun start, hosted by Chicopee Country Club, 1290 Burnett Road, Chicopee. Presented by Polish National Credit Union. Cost: $125 per golfer, $500 per team of four, and/or $20 golfer package that includes 25 raffle tickets and one mulligan. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

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



(413) 527-9414

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



(413) 534-3376

• May 2: Women in Leadership: Leadership in Your Future, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., hosted by HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, 164 Race St., Holyoke. A monthly luncheon series where participants learn from area CEOs while networking with peers from the region. An elegant lunch prepared by the HCC Culinary Arts program provides the setting.

• May 9: Coffee Buzz, 7:30-8:30 a.m., hosted by Loomis House, 298 Jarvis Ave., Holyoke (Sheldon entrance). A free morning networking event sponsored by Loomis House where guests enjoy a light breakfast while networking with the business community. Register online at holyokechamber.com or call the chamber at (413) 534-3376. There is no charge for this event.

• May 14: Holyoke Chamber Cup Golf Tournament, 50th Anniversary, 10 a.m., hosted by the Orchards, 18 Silverwood Terrace, South Hadley. Registration begins at 10 a.m., followed by lunch at 11 a.m., tee off at noon (scramble format), and dinner afterward. Cost: $150 per player, which includes lunch, 18 holes of golf, cart, and dinner. Cost of dinner only is $30. Awards, raffles, and cash prizes follow dinner. For reservations or sponsorships, call the chamber at (413) 534-3376 or register online at holyokechamber.com.

• May 16: Chamber After Hours, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Holyoke Hummus, 285 High St., Holyoke. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Feel free to bring a door prize. Sign up online at holyokechamber.com.

• May 23: Leadership Holyoke Information Session, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Holyoke Community College, Frost Building, Room 309, 303 Homestead Ave., Holyoke. Join the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce and Holyoke Community College for a free information session for Leadership Holyoke 2018-19..



(413) 584-1900

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

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

• May 17: Workshop: “Microsoft Excel Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts,” 9-11 a.m., hosted by Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. Cost: $35 for members, $45 for non-members. Pre-registration required at goo.gl/forms/pX8YUuC25YdMsLjD2.



(413) 568-1618

• May 7: May Coffee Hour with Mayor Brian Sullivan, 8-9 a.m., hosted by Westfield Center – Genesis Healthcare, 60 East Silver St., Westfield. This event is free and open to the public. Online registration is available at www.westfieldbiz.org, so we may give our host a proper count. For more information, call Pam at the chamber at (413) 568-1618.

• May 7: May After 5 Connection, 5-7 p.m., hosted by East Mountain Country Club, 1458 East Mountain Road, Westfield. Refreshments will be served. A 50/50 raffle will benefit the chamber scholarship fund. Cost: free for chamber members, $10 for non-members (cash or credit paid at the door). Online registration is available at www.westfieldbiz.org. For more information, call Pam at the chamber at (413) 568-1618.

• May 14: Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce 57th annual Golf Tournament, 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., hosted by Shaker Farms Country Club, 866 Shaker Road, Westfield. Online registration is available at www.westfieldbiz.org. For more information, call Pam at the chamber at (413) 568-1618.



(413) 532-6451

• May 9: Educational Breakfast: Insider Travel Tips, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by Loomis Village, 20 Bayon Dr., South Hadley. Chuck Elias, travel advisor for Pioneer Valley Cruise Planners, will share tips on how to make travel safe and fun. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. To register, call (413) 532-6451 or e-mail [email protected].

• May 14: The South Hadley & Granby Chamber will join the Greater Holyoke Chamber for a day of golf at the Orchards Golf Club in South Hadley. Registration and lunch will begin at 10:30 a.m., with tee-off beginning at noon. Cost: $150, which includes lunch, a round of golf and cart, a tourney T-shirt, refreshments on the course, and a dinner back at the clubhouse. E-mail [email protected] to register.

• May 21: After 5 at the Ledges Golf Course, 5-6:30 p.m., hosted by the Ledges, 18 Mulligan Dr., South Hadley. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Pre-register by May 15 by contacting Sara Lawrence at (413) 532-6451 or [email protected].



(413) 787-1555

• May 2: Business@Breakfast, 7:15-9 a.m., hosted by MassMutual Center, 1277 Main St., Springfield. Cost: $25 for members in advance ($30 at the door), $35 general admission ($40 at the door).

• May 10: Lunch ‘N’ Learn, Equal Pay, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., hosted by Lattitude restaurant, 1338 Memorial Ave., West Springfield. Cost: $30 for members in advance ($35 at the door), $40 general admission ($45 at the door).

• May 15: C-Suite Conversations & Cocktails, 5-7 p.m., hosted by CityStage, One Columbus Center, Springfield. Exclusive members-only event. Cost: $25 for members ($30 at the door).

• May 31: Sunshine Soirée with the Springfield Regional Chamber, the Greater Chicopee Chamber, and YPS, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Sunshine Village, 75 Litwin Lane, Chicopee.

Reservations for all Springfield Regional Chamber events may be made online at www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, [email protected], or (413) 755-1310.



(413) 426-3880

• May 2: Wicked Wednesday, 5-7 p.m., hosted by the Irish Cultural Center, 429 Morgan Road, West Springfield. For more information, call the chamber office at (413) 426-3880 or register at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

• May 8: Coffee with West Springfield Mayor Will Reichelt, 8-9:30 a.m., hosted by West Springfield Public Library, 200 Park St. For more information, call the chamber office at (413) 426-3880 or register at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

• May 17: Networking Lunch, noon, hosted by Springfield Country Club, 1375 Elm St., West Springfield. Must be a member or guest of a member to attend. The only cost to attend is the cost of your lunch if you are a member. Non-member fee: $10. Register at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

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



• May 18: Adult Field Day, 2-5 p.m., Irish Cultural Center, West Springfield, hosted by the Irish Cultural Center, 429 Morgan Road, West Springfield. For more information, visit springfieldyps.com.

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

SPRINGFIELD — Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author Anna Quindlen will deliver the commencement address at the 132nd Springfield College undergraduate commencement exercises on Sunday, May 13 at 9:30 a.m. at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.

Philanthropist and business executive Greg Toczydlowski will speak at the Springfield College graduate commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 12 at 9:30 a.m. on the College’s main campus.

Quindlen balances the political with the personal and has been followed by millions of readers for her perspectives on today’s issues, from family, work, and education to healthcare, philanthropy, and social justice.

“We are honored to welcome Anna Quindlen to Springfield as our 2018 undergraduate commencement speaker,” said Mary-Beth Cooper, Springfield College president. “Her life’s work not only serves as a shining example of the possibilities for our graduates who seek to build a socially and economically resilient society, it also aligns with our Springfield College mission of leadership in service to others.”

Twelve of Quindlen’s books, including seven of her novels, have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. Her latest novel, Alternate Side, was released in March. It is a provocative look at what it means to be a mother, a wife, and a woman at a moment of reckoning.

Quindlen serves on the board of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and is an American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellow. The Child Welfare League of America established the Anna Quindlen Award for Excellence in Journalism on Behalf of Children and Families.

Toczydlowski is president of Business Insurance. He is a member of the company’s operating committee and management committee. Since joining Travelers in 1990, he has had diverse management assignments, including leading operations across captive, direct, and independent-agent distribution outlets. Previously, he was president of Small Commercial Business Insurance.

“As an alumnus and now trustee of the college, Greg is the perfect speaker for the college during these exciting times that are upon us,” Cooper said. “His multifaceted roles as a business executive, philanthropist, proud father of two college students, and a weekend farmer make him a natural choice to speak to our graduate students on this special day.”

Toczydlowski is the current chair of the Springfield College board of trustees, serving as a trustee since 2011. He has a bachelor’s degree from Springfield College and an MBA from the University of Hartford. He is a member of the board of directors for the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut.

The ceremonies are open to the public. If you have a disability and require a reasonable accommodation to fully participate in this event, contact the Office of Communications at (413) 748-3171 to discuss your accessibility needs. Springfield College is a smoke- and tobacco-free campus.

Daily News

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.

The company is committed to customer service and being the right partner, with the right solutions and the right fit, said Nicole Griffin, owner and chief talent officer. “This approach has played a strategic role, with our client retention rates continuing to be above the industry average.”

ManeHire differentiates itself from competitors by listening to clients, problem solving, and building lasting relationships with service that exceeds the status quo, Griffin added. “ManeHire’s core values will remain the same. Relationships are our bedrock, and we will continue to deliver extraordinary experiences for our clients.”

Health Care Sections

Sound Reasoning

Susan Bankoski Chunyk

Susan Bankoski Chunyk, here displaying a hearing aid, says new research provides some compelling reasons why individuals should not wait to do something about suspected hearing loss.

Susan Bankoski Chunyk has been quoting the same statistic for years now — because the numbers, to her consistent dismay, haven’t changed appreciably.

The average delay from when someone notices a hearing loss to when that same individual decides to actually do something about it is five to seven years, Bankoski Chunyk, a doctor of audiology practicing in East Longmeadow, told BusinessWest.

The basic reason why hasn’t changed, either. There is a serious stigma attached to hearing aids, she explained, adding that these ever-improving devices have always been associated with age and weakness.

“I’ve had people in their 80s and 90s tell me, ‘I don’t want to look old; those are for old people,’” she said when asked if this stigma was alive and well in the 21st century, noting that such sentiments should certainly answer that question.

What has changed in recent years, however, she went on, are some of the arguments for not waiting five to seven years and instead doing something as soon as hearing loss is noted.

Before, the basic arguments involved quality of life as it related to hearing, both for those suffering the hearing loss and the loved ones and friends coping with it. By way of explanation, Bankoski Chunyk, the region’s first doctor of audiology (more on that later), said she would often quote the line on a bumper sticker used by one of the hearing-aid manufacturers in some of its promotional material, especially as those devices became smaller and less obtrusive: “your hearing aid is less obvious than your hearing loss.”

But in recent years, research has provided Bankoski Chunyk and others like her with more powerful arguments, ones that she believes are already changing some attitudes when it comes to hearing health.

Indeed, numerous studies have linked hearing loss to dementia, depression (especially in women), isolation, loneliness, anxiety, insecurity, paranoia, poor self-esteem, and increased safety risk.

“There’s been a connection established between untreated hearing loss and earlier onset of dementia,” she explained. “The research is going on in multiple sites around the world, and I’m not saying there’s a cause and effect between hearing loss and dementia, but people who have hearing loss and don’t do anything about it are at increased risk of dementia.”

Bankoski Chunyk uses the information from such studies for what has always been a very important part of her practice and is now even more so — education, about everything from the health risks from hearing loss to what causes that condition, meaning everything from diabetes to smoking to noise exposure.

There are many misperceptions about hearing health and hearing loss, as well as that troubling stigma about hearing aids, she said. Overall, there is a general lack of urgency when it comes to hearing and its importance to one’s overall health and well-being, she told BusinessWest, adding that this is true not only for individuals with possible hearing loss, but also their primary-care physicians and the insurance companies that don’t cover hearing aids.

In many cases, hearing loss is often seen as part of the normal aging process, a nuisance rather than a health condition — something to be ignored rather than dealt with directly.

She draws a direct comparison to eye care. “Just because hearing declines with age for some people doesn’t mean it should be ignored,” she explained. “Vision changes are not ignored, even though they are common with age.”

Susan Bankoski Chunyk says that, unfortunately, many misperceptions about hearing health and hearing loss remain

Susan Bankoski Chunyk says that, unfortunately, many misperceptions about hearing health and hearing loss remain, as well as a troubling stigma about hearing aids.

Presenting such arguments and, more importantly, treating those who choose to do something about their hearing loss — hopefully not after five to seven years of waiting for it to get worse — has become a rewarding career choice for Bankoski Chunyk on a number of levels.

More than 30 years after first entering the field, she said she gains great satisfaction from changing someone’s life by enabling them to hear more clearly.

“When a person does come in, they usually kick themselves for waiting so long,” she said. “I love to make people’s lives easier, but I can only do it if they’ll let me.”

For this issue, BusinessWest talked at length with Bankoski Chunyk about her practice and her career, but mostly about some of that recent research she quoted, information she hopes will help change the dynamic when it comes to how people think about their hearing and how it relates to their overall health.

In other words, and as they say in this business, people should take a good listen.

A Positive Tone

Bankoski Chunyk said she first became intrigued by the broad field of audiology when she developed an interest in sign language when she was in high school.

“I got one of those cards with the manual alphabet on it and taught myself how to do all the letters of the sign-language alphabet while on a field trip one day in school, and I was hooked into the whole alternative way of communicating,” she explained, adding that audiology became a career focus in a roundabout way.

Indeed, she enrolled at the University of Connecticut (she’s a native of the Nutmeg State), intending to major in communication disorders with the goal of becoming a speech- language pathologist.

“I’d never heard of audiology before,” she recalled. “But once I started taking the coursework in audiology, I decided that’s where my heart belonged. And I got to combine the sign language for communication with profoundly deaf people with audiology, which covers the whole range of hearing loss.”

Back then, one needed a master’s degree to practice, but, like many professions within healthcare, audiology now requires practitioners to have a doctorate, said Bankoski Chunyk, adding that she earned hers online in 2004 (those who entered the field before the change were not grandfathered in) and thus became the first doctor of audiology in the region.

Her original plan was to get some experience in private practice and then go back to her native Middletown, Conn. and start her own practice there. However, while getting that experience with one of the first audiologists to start her own practice in this region, Kay Gillispie, she became attached to the region and a growing patient base.

The two operated a two-office practice for many years, with Gillispie working in the West Springfield location, and Bankoski Chunyk staffing the East Longmeadow facility. After Gillispie retired, the West Springfield office closed, and Bankoski Chunyk continued practicing in East Longmeadow, where she works with an associate, Jennifer Lundgren Garcia, also a doctor of audiology.

The two perform diagnostic evaluations on adults, fit patients with hearing aids when needed (and do the important follow-up work), and refer patients to specialists when other medical issues present themselves.

Over the years, Bankoski Chunyk said she has seen a great deal of change come to the science — and the business — of audiology.

With the former, she said she’s witnessed profound improvements in hearing-aid technology and ways to fit patients with them and then test and adjust to maximize outcomes.

And with that, she gestured to the something she called real-ear measurement equipment.

“This allows us to measure the sound in an individual’s ear canal without hearing aids in and then with hearing aids in,” she explained, “so that we can make sure that, for soft, medium, and loud sounds coming in, the device is doing the appropriate amount — not overemphasizing, but providing as much benefit as possible.

“By using this, we have a more objective measure than what we used to have,” she went on, adding this advancement, which came to the industry in the mid-’90s, is one of many that enable audiologists to bring real improvement in hearing, and thus quality of life, to patients.

As for the business side of the equation, Bankoski Chunyk said she’s seen it evolve and hearing aids become a commodity of sorts, now available at Costco and Walmart and on Amazon, and perhaps soon to be available over the counter in the same way that prescription eyeglasses are.

And this is where she draws an important distinction between the hearing-instrument specialists working in the Costco Hearing Aid Center and those who have ‘doctor of audiology’ written on their business card.

“A hearing aid is not a retail product; it’s a healthcare product — the FDA classifies them that way,” she explained. “And with hearing aids, there is a lot of review and adjustment and more review to make sure that the results they get are optimized.”

Volume Business

What’s of more importance to Bankoski Chunyk, however, is what hasn’t changed in this field of healthcare, especially that aforementioned lack of urgency and that alarming statistic concerning how long people wait before they call to do something about suspected, or even verified, hearing loss.

“Even physicians will think of hearing loss as ‘oh, you’re getting older, you’re going to have hearing loss,’” she told BusinessWest. “They’ll say, ‘you’ve got normal hearing for your age.’ We cringe when we hear that because there’s no such thing as ‘normal hearing for your age’; you either have normal hearing, or you have a hearing loss, no matter how old you are, and it should be treated.”

She has many concerns in this regard, including the commoditization of hearing aids and the fact that someone will soon be able to buy such equipment over the counter — with potentially serious consequences.

“People might go [buy over the counter] thinking that’s equivalent to what we have, which it won’t be; it won’t be nearly as sophisticated as what we have to offer,” she explained. “And then they’ll have a bad experience, throw it in the drawer, and say, ‘hearing aids don’t work,’ and then reset the clock and wait another five to seven years.”

Of more concern, however, is the recent research showing that those who wait those five to seven years, or longer, are not just missing lines from their favorite TV shows or asking family and friends to repeat themselves because they can’t hear them; they’re inviting other, potential serious health problems.

Indeed, Bankoski Chunyk cited one study showing that people with untreated mild hearing loss had twice the risk of dementia, while those with moderate loss had three times the risk, and those with severe loss had five times the risk of dementia.

“But the people in that study who used hearing aids had no greater risk than people who didn’t have hearing loss,” she went on. “We’re not saying that hearing loss causes dementia; we’re saying that use of hearing aids might help to postpone it, hopefully.”

Bankoski Chunyk said there are many conditions now linked to dementia, and the many reports can lead to confusion and frustration. But when it comes to hearing loss, the link to dementia makes sense.

“It’s been proven that lack of socialization is a big factor in cognitive decline,” she explained. “So we know that what happens with people who have hearing loss — because they’re not wearing hearing aids or they’re not fitted properly — is that they start to retract into themselves and they stop being social, they stop going to parties, they stop going to religious services, they don’t go to the movies, they don’t go out anymore. And that turns into depression, loneliness, anxiety, even to the point of paranoia.

“Gratefully, all this is making some people take things a little more seriously now because everyone is worried about winding up with dementia,” she continued, adding that the hope is that ‘some’ will become ‘most.’

Hearing Is Believing

Returning to the subject of that stigma surrounding hearing aids, Bankoski Chunyk said there used to be a stigma concerning eyeglasses.

“Years ago, glasses were a big deal; they used to call people ‘four-eyes,’” she recalled. “Now, people wear glasses as a fashion statement, and they have multiple pairs in different colors. It’s now cool to wear glasses.”

Hearing aids … not so much. And that picture is not likely to change anytime soon, although the technology continues to get smaller and even less noticeable than one’s hearing loss.

While she isn’t holding out hope that hearing aids can become a fashion statement, Bankoski Chunyk does have hope that more people will hear that message about hearing care equating to healthcare.

And not only hear it, but listen, and then act accordingly.

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

Departments Incorporations

The following business incorporations were recorded in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties and are the latest available. They are listed by community.


Democracy Action Inc., 48 North Pleasant St., Suite 304, Amherst, MA 01002. Ben Clements, 256 Park St., Newton, MA 02458. Work to advocate progressive stances on civil rights and liberties, social and economic justice, sensible foreign policy, and sustainable environmental policy.


Czar Industries Inc., 1981 Memorial Dr., #256, Chicopee, MA 01020. Curtis P. Duval, Same. Metal door manufacturing.


Casa De Restauracion Nuevo Pacto, 384 High St., Third Floor, Holyoke, MA 01040. Luz Merari Torres, 26 Tracy St., Springfield, MA 01104. Restaurant.


Aquatic Avengers Inc., 45 French Dr., Palmer, MA 01069. Corey Lomas, Same. Swim coaching.


Bill White Insurance Agency Inc., 82 Wendell Ave., Suite 100, Pittsfield, MA 01201. William White, 710 Rimpau Ave., Suite 203, Corona, CA92879. Insurance producer.


Colby’s Path to The Cure; Hope. Love. Cure. Inc., 35 Palm St., Springfield, MA 01108. Colette Proctor, 33 Palm St., Springfield, MA 01108. Raising awareness and supporting research to cure synovial sarcoma.

Crowned with Excellence Inc., 1655 Main St., Suite 302, Springfield, MA 01103. Merlly D. Ortiz, 52 Casino Ave., Chicopee, MA 01013. To foster a holistic approach of healing, transformation and empowerment of woman. Crowned with excellence believes through empowerment by education, integrating wellness to the body, mind and spirit.


Aroma One Inc., 935 Riverdale St., Suite F105-107, West Springfield, MA 01089. Xian-Ming Zheng, same. Restaurant.

Buscoe Inc., 425 Union St., West Springfield, MA 01089. Elmo Coe, Same. Bus transportation.

Carolina Express Tours Inc., 425 Union St., West Springfield, MA 01089. Rheuben Herbert, same. Charter bus company.

Chrzan Founder Holdings Inc., 143 Doty Circle, West Springfield, MA 01089. Jan Chrzan, Same. Shipping and Delivery Service.

Departments People on the Move

Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C. announced the promotions of Chelsea Cox, Lyudmila Renkas, Joseph LeMay, Dan Eger, and Francine Murphy.

Chelsea Cox

Chelsea Cox

Cox began as an intern at MBK in 2015 and became a full-time associate the following year. In her new position as senior associate in the Accounting and Audit Department, her primary focus is on nonprofit and commercial audits and employee-benefit plans. She is a member of the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Lyudmila Renkas

Lyudmila Renkas

Over the past two years at MBK, Renkas has served as an associate accountant in the Audit and Accounting department at MBK. Having recently completed her MSA, she will turn her attention to new responsibilities as a senior associate. In her new role, she will be responsible for planning and leading client audit engagements, internal control evaluations, and pension audits. In addition, she prepares individual, partnership, and corporate tax returns for clients in the real-estate, construction, healthcare, and nonprofit industries.

Joseph LeMay

Joseph LeMay

Lemay joined MBK in January of 2015 as an associate. In his new role as senior associate, his responsibilities consist of being the lead accountant on review and compilation-level engagements, staff training, and tax-planning strategy for clients in the manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality, and distribution industries. He obtained his CPA license in 2017 and is a member of the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Dan Eger

Dan Eger

Eger, who has been with MBK since 2005, has been promoted to senior associate. He focuses on preparing federal and state income-tax forms for corporations, individuals, and nonprofits. He has more than 12 years of tax experience and brings a wealth of knowledge to his role. In addition to serving as a tax preparer, he has developed an expertise in the firm’s specialized tax software, servicing as a resource to the entire Tax Department.

Francine Murphy

Francine Murphy

Murphy, who has served as a paraprofessional in MBK’s Accounting Department since 2013, has been promoted to tax associate. In that new role, her responsibilities include preparing federal and state income-tax forms for corporations, individuals, and nonprofits; preparing city and town tax filings; preparing annual reports; and responding to IRS notices.


Sofia Nardi

Sofia Nardi

CLICK Workspace, a co-working space located in downtown Northampton, announced the hiring of Sofia Nardi as a new member advocate. Nardi is a recent graduate of Bay Path University, where she double-majored in small business development and marketing, graduating summa cum laude. At CLICK, she manages all administrative functions, including financial accounting, office operations, purchasing, and troubleshooting routine problems with equipment and maintenance. Serving as the first point of contact for all inquiries and visitors, she aims to ensure a welcoming environment. As the member advocate, Nardi manages all communications within the organization and beyond. This includes maintaining website infrastructure, curating monthly e-mail newsletter content, managing the social-media presence of the organization, and actively marketing the firm in the immediate community and beyond.


Geraldine de Berly

Geraldine de Berly

Geraldine de Berly has been named vice president of Academic Affairs and chief academic officer at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC), President John Cook announced. De Berly’s hiring comes after an extensive search and comprehensive vetting process. Currently vice provost for Continuing and Professional Education at UMass Amherst, de Berly begins her new position at STCC on May 1. De Berly, who holds a Ph.D. in education administration, has worked in higher education for more than three decades, in both faculty and administrative roles. At New Mexico State University, she was an associate English as a second language professor, as well as director of the Center for Intensive Training in English. She also worked for 18 years at Syracuse University, University College, including serving as associate dean for Academic Affairs and senior associate dean. University College offers degree, certificate, and non-credit courses and serves as the gateway across Syracuse University for part-time students. As vice provost at UMass Amherst, de Berly managed a budget with more than $50 million in revenue. During her time, enrollment expanded 6% to exceed 31,000 students. Since 2016, six new programs were launched under her leadership. Born in Cuba, de Berly is fluent in four languages. She began her higher-education journey at Miami Dade Junior College. She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, a master’s from the University of Essex (England), and her Ph.D. in education administration from New Mexico State University.


Jesus “Laz” Montano

Jesus “Laz” Montano

Underscoring the importance it places on comprehensive, robust information security and risk-management capabilities, MassMutual named long-time information-technology executive Jesus “Laz” Montano its new head of Enterprise Information Risk Management (EIRM) and chief information security officer. In his new role, Montano will work closely with the company’s executive leadership team, directing a holistic risk-management approach across the company, including managing operational and cybersecurity risks, ensuring all regulatory and compliance requirements are met, and overseeing the safeguarding of MassMutual’s information assets. Montano joins MassMutual from Voya Financial, where he served as chief information security officer for the past four years, responsible for providing leadership, management, and strategy for all aspects of the company’s technology risk and information security. He has also held technology security leadership roles at OpenSky, MetLife, the Travelers Companies, and Lucent Technologies. A graduate of Charter Oak College, Montano earned his MBA in business and technology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is also a certified information security manager, certified in the governance of enterprise IT, and serves as a National Technology Security Council board member.


Elyssa Morgan

Elyssa Morgan

Julie Duffé

Julie Duffé

Florence Bank announced that Elyssa Morgan and Julie Duffé were recently selected as recipients of its President’s Award for 2018. The President’s Award was established by the bank in 1995, affording employees the annual opportunity to nominate their peers for an honor that recognizes outstanding performance, customer service, and overall contribution to Florence Bank. Both Morgan and Duffé were nominated by numerous colleagues. Morgan is the deposit operations manager at the main headquarters in Florence and has worked at the bank for seven years. She holds an associate’s degree in business administration from Bay Path University. Duffé, a customer service representative in Florence Bank’s main office, has been with the bank for seven years. She is a Springfield Technical Community College graduate and holds an associate’s degree in business administration and finance. In addition, she is also certified as an individual retirement account specialist through Ascensus.


Karrah Smith, owner of Something to Talk About Boutique, was recently named Business Owner of the Year by the Assoc. of Black Business Professionals, and was awarded a certificate by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in Boston last month. Smith, a 24-year-old Springfield native, received her associates degree in criminal justice from Holyoke Community College. However, her passion for fashion took center stage in 2015 when her beloved older cousin, Diane Evans, original owner and founder of Something to Talk About Boutique, passed away from pancreatic cancer, leaving the store, located on the street level of Tower Square, to Smith and her mother, Stephanie. Smith has given back to the community in multiple ways, including donating proceeds from fashion shows to local charities. She also works with other young women, giving them pointers on how to run a business.


Chris Hakala

Chris Hakala

Springfield College named Chris Hakala director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship. The newly created academic-affairs position was developed through the college’s strategic planning process, and the center strives to foster intellectual engagement across the curriculum through evidence-based programs and services that increases collaboration, communication, and community to promote the enhancement of student learning. Hakala brings more than 20 years of experience as a faculty member at various institutions in higher education. Most recently, he served as executive director for the Center for Teaching and Learning at Quinnipiac University. Before joining Quinnipiac, he taught psychology at the University of New Hampshire, Gettysburg College, Lycoming College, American International College, and Western New England University, where he served as director of the Center for Teaching and Learning from 2009 to 2014. Hakala earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Castleton State College, and his master’s degree and Ph.D. in psychology from the University of New Hampshire.


Nicholas Grimaldi

Nicholas Grimaldi

Nicholas Grimaldi has become a partner at Fierst, Kane & Bloomberg, LLP, while Peter Lane has been named of counsel in the law firm. Grimaldi joined the firm in 2014 and has more than 18 years of experience as a lawyer. His practice will continue to focus on representing individuals, businesses, and financial institutions in corporate transactions, real estate and secured lending, entertainment and interactive media law, creditor’s rights, and commercial matters. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the Boston University School of Law. Lane has 10 years of experience representing individuals and businesses in civil and criminal litigation, including commercial litigation, landlord-tenant law, criminal defense, and civil rights. He is a graduate of Fordham University and Brooklyn Law School.


Kayla Drinkwine

Kayla Drinkwine

Kayla Drinkwine has rejoined Phillips Insurance Agency Inc. as a commercial lines account manager. She started in 2012 with Phillips Insurance and left earlier this year for an opportunity at another agency. She will be responsible for managing the insurance programs of businesses throughout New England. Drinkwine has her CRIS (construction risk and insurance specialist) and CISR (certified insurance service representative) designations and is a licensed Massachusetts insurance broker.


River Valley Counseling Center (RVCC) promoted Michael Chunyk to the position of site manager at its newest location at Liberty Commons on 2 Mechanic St. in Easthampton. Chunyk obtained his master of social work degree from Springfield College School of Social Work. He has been practicing at RVCC for the last three years as a licensed therapist specializing in working with men who have experienced emotional trauma and addressing symptoms that arise from post-traumatic stress disorder, such as anger issues, depression, and relationship difficulties. He is also a 2018 recipient of the UMass Community Salute Plaque for his dedicated commitment and humanitarian spirit, which has made a positive impact in Western Mass. communities. As the former executive director of Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen and Pantry in Chicopee, he brings many years of organizational leadership to River Valley’s Easthampton team. Alexa Mignano has also joined the RVCC team in Easthampton as coordinator of School-Based Mental Health Counseling and works as a child-focused therapist. She received her master’s degree from from Springfield College and has been working at RVCC as a therapist in the Holyoke Public Schools for more than seven years. She specializes in treating trauma, adjustment problems, anxiety, self-regulation difficulties, disruptive behavior, and other challenges. Her goal is to help children engage their mind and body throughout the therapeutic process as they work towards healing; this includes play therapy, movement-based interventions, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and parenting support. She also provides training and consultation to schools in implementing trauma-informed practices.

Sections Women in Businesss

Teachable Moments

Nicole Griffin

Nicole Griffin says her company’s new name, ManeHire, is meant to evoke the lion-like qualities of strength, courage, and resilience.

A job seeker came to see Nicole Griffin recently after making a careless mistake — one he didn’t even recognize at the time.

The mistake was leaving a temporary position at a large, well-known firm two weeks before his contract was up because he didn’t like the environment and the job wasn’t quite what he thought it would be.

“I said, ‘you kind of ruined all the work you did there for several months by leaving before your assignment ended,’” said Griffin, president of the employment firm she launched in 2013 as Griffin Staffing Network. “That was a teachable moment. I said, ‘you have to make the most of your opportunities. Now you’ve closed your door for a reference. Plus, while you’re there, you’re supposed to network.’”

He quickly realized he’d burned a bridge he was two weeks away from crossing, and he regretted the decision. But he learned from it, and was planning on interviewing for a similar position the day after Griffin sat down with BusinessWest to talk about her company’s client-focused model, its growth over the past five years, and a recent rebranding with a new name, ManeHire.

“It’s nice to have a company in your name — it’s easy for people to recognize who you are when they walk through the door — but I want to let my employees who work internally shine,” she said. “I don’t want the whole focus of the company to be about me, so I’m taking me out of the name and highlighting all the talent we have.”

With physical offices in East Longmeadow, Springfield, and Windsor, Conn. — and a reach well beyond the region — Griffin wanted a new name that evoked lion imagery, for a reason. “I like the lion — it represents strength and courage and resilience, and those are some of the key components you need when you’re looking for employment.”

Griffin put all three attributes to work when building her career. While working at MassMutual as a financial underwriter — providing analysis, sales, and marketing for the company’s products — she became a certified interviewer and started a small nonprofit on the side, called the ABCs of Interviewing. There, she consulted with other nonprofits, companies, and individuals, helping them with interviewing skills.

While volunteering at a MassMutual Community Responsibility event at Western New England University, helping high-school students through a Junior Achievement employment-awareness program, she was struck by some teenagers’ total lack of understanding of how to act and even dress in a job-interview situation, and that soon became a passion for helping people position themselves for employment — a passion she exercised when she left MassMutual to open Griffin Staffing Network.

As the CEO of an agency for temporary, permanent, direct-hire, temp-to-hire, and executive-level positions — placing people in administrative, medical, financial, professional-services, hospitality, insurance, and information-technology jobs — she strives to understand the big picture in the regional employment landscape, while recognizing it’s made up of many small pieces.

“It’s still the same soft skills — showing up to work, the little stuff. Some people don’t realize the value in those things,” she said, again evoking the individual who walked away from his contract, and other, equally cavalier decisions people make.

“Some people don’t realize the weight that has — decisions made in the moment that have a lasting impact,” she said, such as taking time off with no warning on multiple occasions. “There’s a process. You don’t just call out an hour before you’re due to work. You have to be very mindful of the decisions you make.”

Through her work helping client employers find talent, she’s also helping job seekers not only access those jobs, but learn the skills necessary to keep them. In so doing, she knows she’s helping to change lives.

“We impact the family unit,” she said. “Of course, when you offer someone a position, it has an immediate impact on them, but it also impacts the whole family. It’s generational.”

Course Correction

An MP in the Army National Guard in her early 20s, Griffin originally thought her future was in correctional or police work, and she was offered a third-shift job at Hampden County Jail in Ludlow, where her father worked as a correctional officer.

But she wasn’t crazy about the work, as it turned out, or the hours. A friend at MassMutual offered to put in a good word for her there, but warned that’s all she could do — the rest was up to Griffin.

She admitted she wasn’t qualified, but made enough of an impression to get a job offer.

“I learned the value of having someone else speak for you, and how impactful that is,” she told BusinessWest. “And that’s what I want to do for other people. I want to help them find opportunities that may not be reachable by themselves.”

And that’s what she does — but securing an interview is a far cry from nailing down a good job. “You have to do the work. And if you do get a position, you have to maintain it.”

To help people do that, Griffin originally conducted free weekly workshops for applicants to hone their skills on the interview process, proper dress for an interview, business etiquette, and other soft skills. Today, instead of classes and workshops, that training is built into the application process for each job seeker who walks in the door.

“In the interview, we talk about your skill set, but also how we can mentor you. I tell my staff, ‘stop for a moment and really dig into why they left their last place of employment. What is the teachable moment in there for them?’”

Some applicants have walked out of those meetings in tears, shocked at what they didn’t know. “Some are just thankful — ‘no one’s ever told me that; no one’s ever corrected my résumé to tell me about the mistakes are making and why I’m going to all these places and not being selected.’”

Sometimes those tears are necessary, she went on. “I think honesty is key. You have to be honest with people and speak their language.”

Still, while the soft-skills gaps Griffin encounters aren’t surprising, they can be troublesome. Moreso are applicants she encounters who lack even the basics of financial literacy — who don’t know how a checking account works, or wonder why that account shows just a tiny balance after a direct deposit on payday, only to be told by the bank that the account had been $500 in the red. She recalled one woman who brought in her mother so these concepts could be explained to both of them.

“Financial literacy is passed down from generation to generation. It’s real for people. Things we take for granted, they honestly do not know,” she said. “We can make an impact by finding gainful employment for you, but if you’re not understanding how that money works…”

She trailed off, knowing there’s no good conclusion for that sentence — except to keep doing the work she’s doing, helping people gain the skills, knowledge, and wisdom they need to secure and keep good jobs.

“At the end of the day, we want you to be gainfully employed, whether through Griffin Staffing or another employer. We mean that, because it impacts the community.”

Better Days

That community is living through a historically solid economy right now, Griffin said, with Springfield the beneficiary of a string of good news, from MGM Springfield’s opening later this year to CRRC ramping up production of rail cars; from MassMutual and Big Y bringing new jobs to the City of Homes to a wave of entrepreneurial energy in the form of scores of successful startups — hers included.

“It’s a really exciting time for both employers and employees,” she said. “It’s one of those times when the opportunities are there; you have to seize the moment. I’m excited to say I’m from the city of Springfield.”

For those still in the job market, however, it can still be a challenge to find well-paying, satisfying work. A relationship-focused business model, one that digs deep to make the best matches, is appreciated by employer clients who have stuck with Griffin from when she first opened.

“We’re very client- and applicant-focused. Relationships are huge for me,” she said. “Someone may have the hard skills and soft skills, but do they fit into the culture of the company? We look at an applicant as a whole instead of just as a skill set.”

That’s a lesson she learned from MassMutual, when she was hired not necessarily for her raw skills — what they saw on her résumé — but what she brought to the table as a whole person. And it worked out; she was promoted four times.

In seeking to understand the whole person in today’s applicants, she’s come to recognize that young people value flexibility in a work situation as much as — or more than — the salary, which is useful for employers (at nonprofits, for instance) who can’t pay as much as they’d like. In short, today’s young job seekers will often sacrifice in the pay department to gain work-life balance. They also want a clear picture of where they’ll be in a few years, and how they will fit into a company culture, add value, and grow.

When the unemployment rate is low, she added, employers obviously find it more difficult to secure workers with the skill sets they need. “So what we’re doing is going after passive candidates — someone who’s currently employed but may be open to new opportunities.”

Over the years, Griffin has leveraged the skills of her staff to provide recruiting opportunities and career guidance to current and graduating students at area colleges and universities, was recognized with the Community Builder Award from the Urban League for helping meet employment needs in Springfield, and was named to the BusinessWest 40 Under Forty class of 2014 — and then won the magazine’s Continuing Excellence Award last year.

She also serves on the boards of YWCA of Western Massachusetts and the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, and partners each year with the New England Farm Workers Council to hire a summer job applicant. “It’s very important that we give back to the community because we live here too, and our children are growing up here.”

That’s why she sees her work as making the community a better place to live, one job at a time. She’s especially gratified at the success stories that advance far beyond entry level, like a marketing intern who advanced to an executive role in an insurance company, and someone who went from working in a local warehouse to managing it.

“That’s so cool. That’s what empowers me, to see people grow in their positions. That’s so exciting,” Griffin said. “I love what I do. I don’t feel like I work. I get to get up and do what I love every single day. And I want people to wake up feeling the same way I do.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Court Dockets Departments

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

Michael Elbery v. Frazier Auto Service Inc.
Allegation: Multiple incidents of damage to truck: $1,600
Filed: 2/8/18

Dianna Eaglen v. Cedar Auto Sales, LLC
Allegation: Breach of warranty, misrepresentation, and unjust enrichment: $10,000
Filed: 3/8/18

Michael Bessey v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP and Alan Siok d/b/a Siok & Son Excavation
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $3,846
Filed: 3/9/18

Tayvion Harris by his mother and next friend, Christy Cussion, and Chrissy Cussion individually v. John Doe and R.C. Jackson Transportation Co., LLC
Allegation: Negligence; while being transported from daycare, plaintiff came out of his booster seat and fell out passenger door of moving vehicle, causing injury: $2,590.24
Filed: 3/14/18

Hop River Concrete Inc. v. CFI Design Management Inc. and 295 Burnett Road, LLC
Allegation: Money owed for services provided: $21,102.06
Filed: 3/16/18

Perkins Paper, LLC v. Gigi’s Pizzeria, LLC and Jacob A. Decesare
Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $4,338.32
Filed: 3/16/18

Jessica Aitken v. 342 Inc., Thomas P. Murphy, and Daniel v. Dineen
Allegation: Failure to pay wages owed, failure to pay minimum wage, and unlawful withholding of tips: $25,000
Filed: 3/19/18

Donna McAdam v. Pyramid Management Group, LLC
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $43,517.94
Filed: 3/5/18

Christopher Richard v. G4S Secure Integration, LLC; Adesta, LLC; and John Doe as agent/manager
Allegation: Failure to pay prevailing wages, failure to pay overtime wages, fraud and misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment: $100,000
Filed: 3/6/18

Shamar Goldsberry and Patricia Goldsberry v. Northern Heights, LP
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $59,358.61
Filed: 3/8/18

Rebecca Garcia v. Neighborhood Homes, LP
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $8,803.15
Filed: 3/8/18

Donna Bourget v. Tri-State CDL Training Center Inc.
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $52,418
Filed: 3/8/18

Elizabeth Pezzote-McMahon v. Stop and Shop
Allegation: Negligence; slip and fall causing injury: $5,350.07
Filed: 3/9/18

Richard Thompson and Donna Thompson v. Sturdy Home Improvement Inc.
Allegation: Breach of contract, negligent infliction of emotional distress: $125,000
Filed: 3/13/18

Broadcast Music Inc. v. Cutting Edge Broadcasting Inc. d/b/a WEIB-FM
Allegation: Money owed for services provided: $7,682.66
Filed: 3/9/18

Kimberly Cobb and Brian Cobb v. Valley Stump Grinding, LLC
Allegation: Negligence, slip and fall causing injury: $592,935.83
Filed: 3/21/18

Lisa Jacobs v. Sunrise Senior Living Services Inc., Sunrise Senior Living Management Inc., Felipe Miestre, Larry Steinhauser, Sarah Laidlaw, Tiffany Gullette, and Ginger Arsenault
Allegation: Defamation: $10,000,000
Filed: 3/23/18

Arbella Insurance Group a/s/o Benito Rocca v. Hydro-Pro Irrigation Inc.
Allegation: Defendant caused water damage to plaintiff’s property by negligently servicing sprinkler system: $11,487.46
Filed: 3/12/18

Daily News

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.

Daily News

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.

“Smith Brothers will help us perpetuate a long-standing agency, deliver broader market scope and access, and add to the basket of deliverables we offer our clients,” said John Scott IV, former Bailey Agencies Insurance principal. He will continue his role as commercial-lines producer and, along with two other insurance professionals, will work from Smith Brothers’ Niantic office.

“The southeast section of Connecticut is a core geographical segment of Smith Brothers,” said Jared Carillo, Smith Brothers’ director of Foundation Accounts. “Our long-term strategic focus is to grow along the shoreline to help protect families and business; we understand the unique requirements of a coastal environment. Bailey Agencies Insurance is an excellent match for our team, and we can provide their clients with a broader range of products and services.”