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Banking and Financial Services Sections

Growth Engine

Tracey Gaylord of Granite State Development Corp. (right) with Shannon Reichelt, who used Granite State’s services to finance a new property for her company, S. Reichelt & Co.

Tracey Gaylord of Granite State Development Corp. (right) with Shannon Reichelt, who used Granite State’s services to finance a new property for her company, S. Reichelt & Co.

Certified development companies, or CDCs, are entities that partner with banks to help small businesses secure financing to grow their operations. But in doing so, they’re also growing the economy by promoting economic development, which is, in fact, a key element of their mission. Since its inception in New Hampshire in 1982 — and its subsequent, ever-expanding work across Massachusetts — Granite State Development Corp. has been executing that mission.

Shannon Reichelt recently purchased a building in Holyoke to consolidate her CPA organization, S. Reichelt & Co.

Meanwhile, Ben LaRoche and Jared Martin purchased a property in Lanesboro to house their technology-integration business, Amenitek; Gordon and Patricia Hubbard bought Hidden Valley Campground in Lanesboro and renamed it Mt. Greylock Campsite Park; and Pat Ononibaku purchased the adult day-care operation known as ThayerCare and renamed it Bakucare.

Then there are Anthony Chojnowski, who is building a new structure for his clothing store, Casablanca, in Lenox, and Frank Muytjens and Scott Cole, who are developing the Inn at Kenmore Hall in Richmond, near the New York line.

While those are six very different businesses, the common thread is how they financed their property purchases: through the certified development company (CDC) called Granite State Development Corp. (GSDC).

“We work with businesses looking to either acquire an existing business that has tangible assets, or take a loan on real estate or piece of equipment,” said Tracey Gaylord, Granite State’s vice president and business development officer.

Specifically, Granite State is a nonprofit lender authorized to process and service Small Business Administration (SBA) loans utilizing the 504 lending program (more on that later). It’s the second active certified development company (CDC) in New England and provide financing in the states of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.

“The main goal is to promote economic development and job growth,” Gaylord said. “We help banks do loans they might not be able to do otherwise.”

Those loans are spread among a broad range of sectors, she added. “We do anything from manufacturing companies to wineries to restaurants to healthcare facilities to assisted living to campgrounds. And equipment financing for manufacturing — big machines they might buy every 10 or 15 years — we do a lot with those types of projects as well.”

For this issue’s focus on banking and financial services, Gaylord explained why companies find the 504 loan program — and Granite State’s services — an attractive option when financing a purchase or investing in future growth.

Impressive Growth

GSDC President Alan Abraham created the company in 1982 in Portsmouth, N.H., with a geographic territory initially limited to three counties in that state. In 1986, its territory expanded to include the entire state of New Hampshire, and it has since grown to provide statewide coverage for the four northernmost New England states, including Massachusetts.

Granite State Development is one of the largest CDCs nationwide, ranking fifth in both loan volume and dollars, and has been the most active 504 lender in New England for almost a decade. Since 1990, in cooperation with its bank lending partners, the nonprofit has participated in more than 4,000 transactions worth more than $1.5 billion, helping create more than 20,000 jobs in New England in the process, based on borrower growth stemming from the loans.

Meanwhile, 2017 was a banner year for GSDC in Western Mass., where it has poured increasing resources in recent years, as most of its Bay State projects have historically been farther east.

Those projects fall under the SBA’s 504 loan program, which provides approved small businesses with long-term, fixed-rate financing to acquire assets for expansion or modernization. These 504 loans are made available through CDCs like Granite State. CDCs — there are more than 260 nationwide — are certified and regulated by the SBA, and work with SBA and participating lenders, typically banks, to provide financing to small businesses.

A typical 504 loan is structured in three parts: 50% is a lien from the bank, 40% is a second lien through the CDC, and 10% is a required down payment from the borrower.

This is an important element in the program, Gaylord noted, as many banks require 20%, 25%, even 30% down for certain loans, simply as a matter of policy, “and this actually allows them to do projects people may need.”

At the same time, it’s a win for the borrower, she added, because a bigger down payment may cut into funds they need to get through a lean time. “Maybe it’s a seasonal business, and they need money to get through the winter, to fill that gap.”

The bank sets its own interest rate and term for its 50% share of the loan, she went on. “If they want to do a fixed five-year rate, they can do that. They do not have to match what we do. That’s the benefit for the bank.”

As for GSDC’s portion, it determines terms based on the type of project, she explained. A real-estate project might come with a 20-year term, while 10 years might be more appropriate when purchasing a piece of equipment with a useful life of 10 to 15 years.

“Whatever the type of project, the bank chooses what to do with the other 50%,” Gaylord said. “People say, ‘why would I use this program?’ My quick response is, ‘it’s a low capital investment and a low fixed rate.’”

There are limits to what 504 loans may be used to purchase, however. They are specifically intended for fixed assets and certain soft costs, including the purchase of existing buildings; the purchase of land and land improvements, including grading, street improvements, utilities, parking lots, and landscaping; the construction of new facilities or modernizing, renovating, or converting existing facilities; the purchase of long-term machinery; or the refinancing of debt in connection with an expansion of the business through new or renovated facilities or equipment.

The 504 program cannot be used for working capital or inventory, consolidating or repaying debt, or refinancing, except for projects with an expansion component.

Bigger Picture

At its heart, the 504 lending program and CDCs like Granite State exist not only to help small businesses, but to boost economic development over an entire region. In short, applicants must demonstrate that their purchase or investment will create jobs.

“That’s one of the primary purposes of this,” Gaylord said. “We have to track the number of jobs the business has at the current time and how many jobs they’re predicting they’ll have in the first year and the next 24 months.”

That calculation incorporates job retention as well, she noted. “If they have only two employees but doing the project means they’ll be able to retain those two, that’s fantastic. If they can create more jobs, that’s even better.”

According to the SBA, community-development goals of the 504 loan program include improving, diversifying, or stabilizing the local economy; stimulating other business development; bringing new income into the community; and assisting manufacturing firms and production facilities located in the U.S.

Public-policy goals include revitalizing a business district of a community with a written revitalization or redevelopment plan; expanding exports; expanding small businesses owned and controlled by women, veterans, and minorities; aiding rural development; increasing productivity and competitiveness; modernizing or upgrading facilities to meet health, safety, and environmental requirements; and assisting businesses in, or moving to, areas affected by federal budget reductions, including base closings; reduction of energy consumption by at least 10%.

There are a few environmental goals as well, including increased use of sustainable design, building design that reduces the use of non-renewable resources and minimizes environmental impact; reduction in the use of greenhouse-gas-producing fossil fuels; and production of alternative and renewable forms of energy.

These are worthy goals, obviously, but businesses that qualify for 504 loans are typically more concerned with how the program affects their bottom line.

“We see ebbs and flows, just like conventional banks do, but we’re obviously in a good market right now,” Gaylord said. “This is a good opportunity for people to lock in those loan rates before they start to rise. Now is a really good time.”

There have been many of those good times since Granite State Development Corp. took root in New England 35 years ago, with a mission to help small businesses expand and grow, thereby helping the New England economy.

“It’s a very easy process,” Gaylord told BusinessWest. “I think that the bankers are comfortable with it, and look to us for guidance. We’re bankers and want to work with them.

“People ask, ‘are you competing with banks?’” she went on. “No, we don’t compete with banks, we work with them. We look at banks as our partners. And I get excited when I see the jobs and economic growth. That’s the best part.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Education Sections

Life’s Work

Lisa Rapp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meeting the Need

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cool, Fun — and Meaningful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Briefcase Departments

UMass, Research Partners Aim to Improve Flu-season Forecasts
AMHERST — Research teams, including one led by biostatistician Nicholas Reich at UMass Amherst, are participating in a national influenza-forecasting challenge to try to predict the onset, progress, and peaks of regional flu outbreaks to aid prevention and control. This year, the Reich Lab is leading an effort to improve the forecasting by increasing the collaboration between groups. “Every year, the Centers for Disease Control host a flu-forecasting challenge,” Reich said. “It’s the most organized and public effort at forecasting any infectious disease anywhere in the world. Our lab is now in our third year of participating, and we find that each year we get a little better and learn a bit more. This year, we wanted to take it to the next level, so we worked with other teams year-round to develop a way that our models could work together to make a single best forecast for influenza. This entire effort is public, so anyone can go to the website and see the forecasts.” While this flu season has started earlier than usual in the northeastern and southern regions of the U.S., according to the most recent data, the forecasts are still showing a fair amount of uncertainty about how big a season it will be, Reich said. “The holiday season is a notoriously difficult time to forecast because typically fewer people go to the doctor, and yet everyone is traveling around spreading or being exposed to infections such as flu.” Reich and colleagues at UMass Amherst’s School of Public Health and Health Sciences collaborate with teams at Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, and a group at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, in a group they have dubbed the FluSight Network. It issues a new flu season forecast every Monday for public-health researchers and practitioners that compares the flu trajectory this year to past years. In a recent publication, Reich and colleagues state that their aim is to “combine forecasting models for seasonal influenza in the U.S. to create a single ensemble forecast. The central question is, can we provide better information to decision makers by combining forecasting models and, specifically, by using past performance of the models to inform the ensemble approach.” Added Reich, “we are working closely with our collaborators at the CDC to determine how to improve the timeliness and relevance of our forecasts.” To prepare for this flu season, he and colleagues spent many hours designing a standard structure that each team needed to use when submitting models. This allowed for comparison of methods over the past seven years of flu data in the U.S. They also conducted a cross-validation study of data from the past seven flu seasons to compare five different methods for combining models into a single ensemble forecast. They found that four of their collaborative ensemble methods had higher average scores than any of the individual models. The team is now submitting forecasts from their best-performing model and are posting them once a week this season to the CDC’s 2017-18 FluSight Challenge. Reich estimates there are about 20 teams this year participating in the CDC challenge nationwide, who produce about 30 different models. Each model forecasts the onset of the flu season, how it will progress over the coming few weeks, when it will peak, and how intense the peak will be compared to other seasons. In a heavy flu season, between 5% and 12% of doctor’s visits are for influenza-like illness, and that number varies regionally in the U.S. This metric is one of the key indicators for the CDC of how bad the flu season is, and it is the measure used in the forecasting challenges. “Certainly for the CDC, there are policy decisions that could be impacted by these forecasts, including the timing of public communication about flu season starting and when to get vaccinated. Models can help with all of that,” Reich said. “Also, hospitals often try to have enhanced precautions in place during a certain peak period for the disease. If you do that too early, or for too long, you run the risk of individuals getting tired of taking the extra time to comply with the policies.” Hospital epidemiologists and others responsible for public-health decisions do not declare the onset of flu season lightly, he noted. In hospitals, flu onset — a technical set of symptoms reported to physicians — triggers many extra time-consuming and costly precautions and procedures such as added gloves, masks, and gowns; donning and doffing time; special decontamination procedures; increased surveillance; and reduced visitor access, for example. There is also healthcare worker fatigue to consider. Hospitals want to be as effective and efficient as possible in their preparations and response to reduce time and money spent and worker burnout. The public-health effort to improve flu season forecasts is relatively recent, Reich said. “There has been tremendous progress in how we think about infectious disease forecasting in just the last five years. If you compare that to something like weather forecasting, which has been going on for decades, we’re in the middle of a long process of learning and improvement. Someday, we might be able to imagine having a flu forecast on our smartphones that tells us, for example, it’s an early season and I’d better get Mom to the clinic to get her vaccination early this year. We’re close, but that’s not here quite yet.”

Massachusetts Adds 6,700 Jobs in November
BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 3.6% in November, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced Thursday. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 6,700 jobs in November. Over the month, the private sector added 7,300 jobs as gains occurred in leisure and hospitality; education and health services; construction; professional, scientific, and business services; and manufacturing. The October estimate was revised to a gain of 3,200 jobs. From November 2016 to November 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 65,200 jobs. The November unemployment rate was five-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 4.1% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Year-to-date the jobs and labor force estimates indicate a strong and stable economy in the Commonwealth. Since December 2016, Massachusetts is estimated to have added 62,200 jobs, 64,300 more residents are participating in the labor force, and the unemployment rate remains low, averaging 3.8%. November also marks the 13th consecutive month of private-sector job growth, with manufacturing adding 1,600 jobs,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta said. The labor force decreased by 8,200 from 3,656,000 in October, as 4,000 fewer residents were employed and 4,200 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased five-tenths of a percentage point from 3.1% in November 2016. There were 18,300 more unemployed residents over the year compared to November 2016. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased one-tenth of a percentage point to 65.4% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has increased by 0.7% compared to November 2016. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in construction; professional, scientific and business services; leisure and hospitality; and other services.

Applications Open for 2018 Local Farmer Awards
AGAWAM — The Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation (HGCF), in partnership with Big Y and a sponsorship team, announced the fourth year of the Local Farmer Awards, supporting local farmers in Western Mass. with funds for infrastructure improvements and farm equipment. Launched in 2015, the awards draw attention to the importance of local farmers to the region’s economy and health. “Big Y has been supporting local farmers since we began over 80 years ago,” said Charles D’Amour, Big Y president and COO. “Through our partnership with the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation, we are providing one more way to help the local growers to thrive in our community.” Awards of up to $2,500 will be given to each recipient farmer. The 2017 awards were made to 49 of the 116 applicants. Essential to the program’s success has been the ongoing advice and assistance from the two regional Buy Local farm advocates, Berkshire Grown and Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA). “Local family farms are a part of our culture and economy and the reason we call this area home,” said Philip Korman, executive director of CISA. “This unique farm awards program makes it possible for family farms to strengthen that connection in our communities.” Added Barbara Zheutlin, executive director of Berkshire Grown, “we’re thrilled about the continuation of these financial awards for farmers in Western Massachusetts. This helps build the local food economy in our region.” The application is open through Jan. 31, 2018. Interested applicants are encouraged to visit the website for more information: www.farmerawards.org.

DevelopSpringfield Sells 700 State St. to Pride Stores for Redevelopment
SPRINGFIELD — DevelopSpringfield announced the sale of property at the corner of Thompson and State streets to Pride Stores for redevelopment. The site had been identified as a priority for redevelopment in the State Street Corridor Redevelopment Program, a plan focused on the economic revitalization of State Street and adjacent neighborhoods. DevelopSpringfield acquired the former River Inn at 700 State St. in 2013 with adjacent lots on Thompson Street to remove a blight on the neighborhood, promote revitalization, and prepare the site for appropriate commercial redevelopment. The organization performed extensive asbestos remediation, demolished the building, and prepared the site for redevelopment. “We listened closely to the interests of community members, including the Springfield Food Policy Council and the McKnight Neighborhood Council, to identify a developer whose project would meet community needs and be a good neighbor to the many residents near the site,” said Nicholas Fyntrilakis, DevelopSpringfield’s chairman. “Pride’s new store will offer fresh food and produce and address the community’s interests for healthier food options.” Added Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, “this is exactly why my administration created this public/private partnership of DevelopSpringfield. This in-question property had been a troublesome area for the neighborhood for many years. I look forward to the redevelopment of this site with a project that will bring jobs, tax revenue, and a quality retail operator who cares about our community.” The sale of the property was complete on Dec. 15. Construction is targeted to begin in the spring. The new store will include a Pride gas station and convenience store and will feature a variety of convenient food items, Pride Café Bakery, local produce, and fresh healthy food offerings. In addition, incubator space will be provided to a local food entrepreneur. “We are excited to bring Pride Markets to this important area of the State Street corridor,” said Bob Bolduc, owner of Pride Stores. “Not only will the store have the amenities our customers traditionally expect, but it will also have fresh local produce available through an innovative collaboration led by local food advocate Liz O’Gilvie, who will coordinate a farmer’s market on the site.”

MassDOT: $1B Invested in Infrastructure in 2017
BOSTON — The Mass. Department of Transportation announced that approximately $1 billion was invested in improving and upgrading roads, bridges, sidewalks, multi-use paths, and intersections across the state in calendar year 2017. This $1 billion in capital investments included repairs and improvements to 386 bridges in 123 communities and improved road conditions in more than 155 cities and towns across Massachusetts. An additional $30 million was programmed through the Complete Streets and Municipal Small Bridge programs in order to support local transportation planning and community bridges not eligible for federal aid. “The Baker-Polito Administration has focused on improving the reliability and resiliency of our transportation infrastructure to ensure that people throughout the Commonwealth are able to drive, walk, bike, or use public transit and reach the places they need to go,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “By investing in our roads, bridges, sidewalks, multi-use paths, and intersections, we can provide better options to travelers and allow them to utilize their preferred mode of transportation to reach their jobs, homes, businesses, and places that improve their quality of life.” Among the notable construction project highlights from 2017 are reaching the full beneficial use milestone for the $148 million I-91 viaduct rehabilitation project in Springfield approximately eight months ahead of schedule. The majority of the work has now been completed, and the lanes and ramps on I-91 have reopened.

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.

HAMPDEN DISTRICT COURT
LKQ Corp. v. E & T Auto Body Inc.
Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $3,647.50
Filed: 11/20/17

Angel N. Quintana v. Karaaslan Realty, LLC and Pizza Works
Allegation: Negligence, slip and fall causing injury: $6,688.04
Filed: 12/7/17

McCormick-Allum Co. Inc. v. Atlantic Furniture Inc.
Allegation: Money owed for HVAC and gas repair work: $14,891.69
Filed: 12/11/17

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT
John Maloni v. James Garini
Allegation: Breach of contract: $25,000+
Filed: 12/1/17

Raymond Tirrell v. Eastern States Exposition
Allegation: Wage and hour violations, misclassification of employee as part-time and withholding of overtime pay: $100,000
Filed: 12/6/17

Specialty Bolt & Screw Inc. v. Stored Solar J&WE, LLC
Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $28,695.06
Filed: 12/6/17

Ellen Zordani v. Centro Enfield, LLC and Global Management Solutions Inc.
Allegation: Slip and fall causing injury: $20,000+
Filed: 12/11/17

HAMPSHIRE DISTRICT COURT
Split Excavating Inc. v. Wildwood Court Management Inc.
Allegation: Failure to pay for plowing services: $11,525
Filed: 12/6/17

Melissa O’Neill v. Full Tilt Auto Body Inc.
Allegation: Unfair and deceptive business practices, conversion of automobile: $15,000
Filed: 12/13/17

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT
Donald Kendall v. Home Depot USA Inc. and Electric Eel Manufacturing Co.
Allegation: Product liability, negligence causing injury while using electric-powered plumbing snake: $50,000
Filed: 11/27/17

Richard P. Halgin v. William J. Botempi, DMD, MD and Berkshire Facial Surgery Inc.
Allegation: Dental malpractice
Filed: 12/7/17

Custom Content Sales and Marketing Sections

Diving into the deep end once again.

inspired-marketing

(Left to right) back row: Lauren Mendoza, Kristin Carlson, Noelle Myers, and Lynn Kennedy; front row: Nikia Davis, Amanda Myers, Jill Monson-Bishop, and Crystal Childs
Photo by: Seth Kaye Photography

A new year is marked by many traditions: the ball drops, ‘Auld Lang Syne’ chimes, people kissing; but for local marketing agency, Inspired Marketing, 2018 started with the biggest ‘Splash’ yet. Inspired Marketing is ecstatic to announce the recent acquisition of Splash Marketing & Creative.

“ I have wanted to continue to grow the team,” shares Monson-Bishop, “and doing so through acquiring a company like Splash was a natural fit. I had been watching Crystal Childs for a while; impressed with the company’s work, commitment to the community, passion for helping businesses grow, and her desire to be a marketing educator. I truly believe our like-mindedness make this a perfect match.”

The objective of this addition is to provide the region with cutting-edge, customized solutions all under one roof. The Inspired Marketing team is now eight members strong including Splash founder, Crystal Childs, and her colleague, Amanda Myers.

Crystal Childs will be Inspired Marketing’s first Creative Director. She brings a vast array of experience to the team including graphic design, creative direction, social media skills, and management. Childs began her career as a graphic designer before transitioning into the world of social media in 2009. She’s trained at organizations such as Twitter and Facebook in California along with both the New York and California Google offices. Throughout her career she has learned all the various aspects of marketing; spending ten years in automotive marketing with the mega-dealership Balise Auto Group.

“I’m looking forward to being a part of the Inspired Marketing team,” Childs shared, “I am excited to continue offering my clients the outstanding customer service and creative Splash Marketing is known for; with the ability to now offer additional resources such as media buying and public relations. As Creative Director I can’t wait to work with the team to generate award-winning work on behalf of our clients.”

Area businesses will now benefit from affordable, user-friendly websites built in-house with the addition of Web Developer, Amanda Myers. Myers is a graduate of Roger Williams University where she majored in Web Development and double minored in Graphic Design and Marketing. She combines creativity and savvy technical skills to build or redesign websites for clients; improving the aesthetic, functionality and overall usability of a brand or company’s web presence. In addition to agency-life, Myers has built websites for several industries including non-profits, manufacturing, and higher education.

 

Many Years of Hard Work

It is remarkable to think how much Inspired Marketing has grown over the years. Starting as a sole proprietorship with a part-time employee and growing to an S-Corporation with a full-time team is no easy feat. All while becoming a Certified Women Owned business, adding a Connecticut office, becoming an award-winning agency and expanding services, client portfolios and geographical reach.

In addition to all of this excitement, the last six-months Inspired Marketing has promoted from within and added key new team members.

  • Lauren Mendoza was promoted to Operations Manager and oversees all the HR, finances, and traffic for the agency. Mendoza had previously worked for Inspired Marketing when it was just a team of three, but needed the opportunities afforded by a larger company. Fortunately, when the company got bigger Mendoza was in the position to come back.
  • Kristin Carlson was promoted to Intern Supervisor. Carlson has been with Inspired Marketing since graduating Fitchburg State University in 2014. Her role now includes overseeing two interns per semester from colleges all over New England. In addition, she handles media buying; digital and social media; and analytics.
  • Lynn Kennedy joined the team as an Account Executive. Kennedy has an extensive history of marketing experience including 15 years of retail marketing with Yankee Candle and Pyramid Management and a decade of global marketing knowledge as well.
  • Nikia Davis has joined Inspired Marketing as Graphic Designer. Davis had a long and outstanding career in design with BusinessWest and The Healthcare News. Her creativity and passion produces some truly unique options for clients.
  • Noelle Myers also joined Inspired Marketing as Marketing & Event Specialist. Most recently she was the Director of Marketing for The Arbors Assisted Living. Prior she was the Director of Chamber Management Services and the Vice President of the Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce. She brings to the team a plethora of media and C-Suite relationships, a vast knowledge of event management, and a creative flair to writing.

 

Out of Sadness Came the Spark

An entrepreneurial idea typically stems from a personal moment in one’s life; Jill Monson-Bishop, founder of Inspired Marketing, is no exception. After a long career as a deejay on radio stations such as WMAS, Rock 102, and Mix 93.1; it was 2009 and she was selling advertising and seemingly content. All of that changed on June 2nd, when her Mom passed away suddenly at only 55-years-old.

Monson-Bishop pictured at her college graduation, with her mother, Sue McCormack

Monson-Bishop pictured at her college graduation, with her mother, Sue McCormack, the company inspiration.

The next day, Monson-Bishop was walking up the stairs to the family home and encountered a blue butterfly floating along next to her. Surprised by its appearance, she felt it had deeper meaning, “It was such a powerful symbol and message, like my Mom was saying I’m still here for you. Now it’s time to follow your dreams!”

In addition to the immense shock of losing her Mom came a realization that tomorrow is promised to no one. It was a sobering idea – one she pondered for days. “If I only get 55 years on this earth, how do I want to spend my time, and what do I want to be remembered for?” Those questions lit the spark for Monson-Bishop and, inspired by her Mom’s legacy, she began mapping out this new adventure – Inspired Marketing. The butterfly was incorporated into the logo as a reminder for each of us to always follow our dreams.

 

A Butterfly Takes Flight

In December of 2009 Inspired Marketing officially launched as a sole proprietorship. Like many start-ups, Monson-Bishop also held a full-time position as the Director of Marketing for Adam Quenneville Roofing and Siding for the first year. Throughout 2010 the business basics were developed, including the company Vision & Values Statement. This process is usually difficult for new businesses, for Monson-Bishop she used her Mom’s rules:

  • Don’t lie.
  • Respect others.
  • Be a team player.
  • Live with no regrets.
  • Always do what you say you’re going to.
  • Laugh often.
  • Listen.
  • And make your bed! (They don’t make beds, but they do have great coffee!)

In 2011, Monson-Bishop took the leap into the deep end of the pool. With $1,500 from her personal bank account and a rented desk at a friend’s office, she became a full-time solopreneur. In 2014 the company was proud to relocate to its current downtown Springfield office space and become a part of the city’s renaissance.

 

Our Story Is Just Beginning

Inspired Marketing is a full-service marketing agency specializing in creative services, digital and traditional marketing, and public relations. Working over the years with some of the region’s best companies including American International College, Adam Quenneville Roofing & Siding, The Good Dog Spot, Fuel Services, Square One, Bob Pion Buick GMC, Smith & Wesson, Deep River Plastics, Bounce Springfield and Bounce NY, PayLess For Oil, and MGM Springfield. Their objective is to make your business stand out with customized solutions to increase revenue. If you are ready to stand out in a cluttered world and really make a splash give Inspired Marketing a ring at 413-303-0101 or [email protected].

inspired-marketing-logo

Facebook: GetInspiredMarketing

Instagram: InspiredMktg   

LinkedIn: Inspired Marketing 

Twitter: #InspiredMarketing

 

 

 

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College will be open until 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday from Jan. 8 through Jan. 18 to serve prospective students planning to register for spring semester classes.

Classes begin Monday, Jan. 22. During this late registration period, prospective students may apply to a program, meet with an advisor, select and register for courses, pay their bill, and receive their schedule in one visit.

Dean of Admissions Louisa Davis-Freeman said there is still plenty of time to enroll at STCC for the spring semester, and many programs are still accepting applicants.

“To be accepted into a program, please bring your official high school transcript(s) or GED or HiSET certification with you,” she added. “In order to be considered eligible for financial aid, you must be enrolled in a degree-granting or eligible certificate program.”

New for the spring semester is STCC’s mechanical engineering technology transfer program partnership with Northeastern University, Davis-Freeman noted. “Our partnership with Northeastern allows students to earn bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering technology and advanced manufacturing systems on site at STCC. The agreement with STCC marks the first time Northeastern has partnered with a community college to offer bachelor’s degrees on site.”

In addition, STCC’s new online degrees in business and business transfer continue to be a popular option for prospective students looking to complete their associate degree completely online, she said.

The College will be closed in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 15.

For more information about beginning spring semester classes on Jan. 22, call the Admissions Office at (413) 755-3333, e-mail [email protected], or apply online at stcc.edu/apply.

Court Dockets Departments

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

CHICOPEE DISTRICT COURT

Julio Toledo v. Baystate Medical Center
Allegation: Negligence and assault and battery causing injury: $1,194.17
Filed: 11/24/17

HAMPDEN DISTRICT COURT

All-Terior Painting, LLC v. 6 Woods Restoration Inc. d/b/a Rainbow Restoration and Joseph Wood individually
Allegation: Breach of contract, money owed for services completed: $19,646
Filed: 11/21/17

Julie Donahue v. PRRC Inc. d/b/a Price Rite
Allegation: Slip and fall causing injury: $24,000
Filed: 11/22/17

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT

Cynthia Girand v. Big Y Foods Inc.
Allegation: Slip and fall causing injury: $63,508.25
Filed: 11/14/17

Jessica Rodriguez v. Pioneer Spine & Sports Physicians, P.C.
Allegation: Negligence causing injury: $14,894.08
Filed: 11/20/17

Emily McKay, et al, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated v. Mardi Gras Entertainment d/b/a Center Stage, Anthony L. Santaniello, and its other corporate officers
Allegation: Employment contract dispute; misclassification as independent contractors, thereby depriving plaintiffs of wages, tips, and other benefits of employment
Filed: 11/20/17

Alton E. Gleason Co. Inc. v. Rykor Concrete & Civil Inc. and United States Fire Insurance Co.
Allegation: Money owed for services, labor, and materials: $61,192.40
Filed: 11/28/17

Erica Diaz v. Pioneer Valley Transit Authority and Springfield Area Transit Co.
Allegation: Negligence causing injury when PVTA bus struck plaintiff’s motor vehicle: $51,290.74
Filed: 11/30/17

HAMPSHIRE DISTRICT COURT

Rieker Shoe Corp. v. Shoefly Shoe Salons, LLC
Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $22,552.31
Filed: 11/15/17

HAMPSHIRE SUPERIOR COURT

Easthampton Precision Manufacturing v. Samson Manufacturing Corp.
Allegation: Breach of contract: $418,972.35+
Filed: 11/15/17

Dorothy Gabriel v. Turn It Up Inc.
Allegation: Slip and fall causing injury: $227,346.14
Filed: 11/24/17

Theodore Z. Davidson and Susan Davidson v. OSJ of North Adams, LLC
Allegation: Negligence causing injury: $796,105
Filed: 11/24/17

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 3.6% in November, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced Thursday.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 6,700 jobs in November. Over the month, the private sector added 7,300 jobs as gains occurred in leisure and hospitality; education and health services; construction; professional, scientific, and business services; and manufacturing. The October estimate was revised to a gain of 3,200 jobs.

From November 2016 to November 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 65,200 jobs. The November unemployment rate was five-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 4.1% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Year-to-date the jobs and labor force estimates indicate a strong and stable economy in the Commonwealth. Since December 2016, Massachusetts is estimated to have added 62,200 jobs, 64,300 more residents are participating in the labor force, and the unemployment rate remains low, averaging 3.8%. November also marks the 13th consecutive month of private-sector job growth, with manufacturing adding 1,600 jobs,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta said.

The labor force decreased by 8,200 from 3,656,000 in October, as 4,000 fewer residents were employed and 4,200 fewer residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased five-tenths of a percentage point from 3.1% in November 2016. There were 18,300 more unemployed residents over the year compared to November 2016.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased one-tenth of a percentage point to 65.4% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has increased by 0.7% compared to November 2016.

The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in construction; professional, scientific and business services; leisure and hospitality; and other services.

Economic Outlook Sections

On the Bright Side

By Richard Sullivan

Richard Sullivan

Richard Sullivan

The state of the region’s economy is strong, and the economic outlook is bright. That’s a simple statement, but let’s look at the facts that support that optimism.

We all have read of the important investments that MGM and CRRC, the Chinese rail-car manufacturer, are making in Springfield. Less-reported is the some $5.2 billion of economic-development projects that have recently occurred or are currently underway in our region.

In a 2016 study, the Economic Development Council of Western Mass. (EDC) catalogued the growth in each community — from housing developments to manufacturing companies expanding and relocating to the area; from transportation investments to growth in our public and private education systems. That study shows strong and important regional investments, and this trend is continuing.

MGM and CRRC are certainly important regional economic-development projects for the jobs they are creating, the taxes they will pay, and the many public benefits they are required to provide through their host-community agreements. However, the biggest economic impact the projects will have is when they contract with local businesses as part of their operational and supply chains. MGM specifically is using best efforts to annually contract locally for $50 million in goods and services. These dollars will stay local, provide additional economic opportunities, and create more jobs in companies that are part of the fabric of our communities, hiring our neighbors, paying local taxes, and supporting our local charities. It is an opportunity we are capitalizing on, but one that we can’t lose sight of.

Another bright spot within the local economy is tourism. You may think Boston, San Francisco, or New York, but maybe not Western Mass., when it comes to this important sector. However, tourism is the third-largest industry in the region. Approximately 3 million visitors come to the area each year, spending $750 million, producing an estimated $17 million in state and local taxes, and supporting 5000 jobs.

Mary Kay Wydra, president of the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, is bullish on the growth of tourism in Western Mass., with the addition of MGM, the Dr. Seuss Museum, a soon-to-be-refurbished Basketball Hall of Fame, continued investment at Yankee Candle and Six Flags, and more. She is confident that annual visitorship will grow. Tourism is a vital part of our economy and will become even more important beginning in 2018.

Still another source of optimism and good news is the growing amount of entrepreneurial energy in the region.

Indeed, at the recent “State of Entrepreneurship in the Valley,” hosted by Steve Davis and the EDC entrepreneurship committee, the focus was on the growth of a relatively new sector for the region — innovation, startups, and entrepreneurship. In 2015 and 2016 alone, more than 9,000 people attended a Valley Venture Mentors (VVM) event; there are currently 613 part-time and 227 full-time jobs in the startup ecosystem, and just under $27 million of revenue and investment was created in the region. If all the startups were under one roof, they would represent the 11th-largest company in Springfield.

The entrepreneurship ecosystem is growing up and down the Valley. VVM works closely with initiatives in Franklin County and SPARK in Holyoke; our local colleges and universities have all carved out leadership positions; Greentown Labs, based in Somerville, Mass., has opened a manufacturing office at the Scibelli Enterprise Center; and the Grinspoon Entrepreneurship Initiative is a national leader in elevating the importance of entrepreneurship and recognizing entrepreneurial excellence among college students. A new group, Women Innovators & Trailblazers (WIT), is establishing itself in order to ignite a women-led innovation economy in Western Mass. and beyond. This is an exciting and quickly growing sector in the region.

I see additional new sectors growing in the region that can become centers of excellence for Western Mass. This year, UMass Amherst, in cooperation with the EDC, hosted an event highlighting its national leadership position in the field of green technology and the environment. The event was sponsored by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and focused on building technologies, water innovation, and clean energy and storage. Companies from across Massachusetts came to discuss the quickly growing green-technology cluster and the partnerships that can be developed between the private sector and the university for research and development, but also talent development.

Bay Path University recently staged its fifth annual Cybersecurity Summit, showcasing the work it is doing in the field of cybersecurity. President Carol Leary, who serves as a member of the Department of Homeland Security’s Academic Advisory Council, said “it is critical for higher education to be a central part of this emerging cyber ecosystem. We are developing the right talent, the diverse talent needed to be a part of the cybersecurity workforce. To the students pursuing a cybersecurity career — you are the future, you are qualified, and we need you more than ever.”

Western Mass., because it is home to a significant number of universities, colleges, community colleges, and technical schools, finds itself in an enviable position because it can supply the workforce of the future.  Still, there is no doubt that the biggest issue facing our existing companies, and the companies of the future, is their ability to find, develop, and retain a high-quality workforce.

We need to coordinate with all the great workforce-development organizations in the region and leverage the high-quality education institutions that call Western Mass. home to meet this demand.

When we do, our future economy will be bright.

Richard Sullivan is president of the Economic Development Council of Western Mass.; [email protected]

Company Notebook Departments

Vibra Hospital to Close Springfield Facility in March

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

Monson Savings Bank Seeks Input on Charitable Giving

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

Meredith-Springfield Associates Named Manufacturer of the Year

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

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

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

Cambridge College, ILI Announce Partnership

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

Chicopee Savings Foundation Endows Scholarship at WNEU

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

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

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

WSU, GCC Announce Nursing-degree Partnership

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

CHD to Serve More Youth with New Ware Office

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

DiGrigoli School of Cosmetology Honored by Modern Salon Media

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

HCC Awarded Grant to Expand Community Health Worker Program

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

Daily News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C. recently welcomed Marie Lafortune, Natalya Riberdy, and Haley Pedruczny to the firm.

Lafortune comes to MBK as a first-year audit associate. She is currently focused on pension and 401(k) plans, HUD engagements, and compliance testing for nonprofits. She also assists with tax preparation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and healthcare management from Elms College and is pursuing her master’s of accountancy at Westfield State University.

Riberdy is a new associate focusing on the service and construction industries. Before joining MBK, she gained experience as intern at a regional firm and as a billing, AR, and AP associate in private accounting. She holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from Bridgewater State University and is on track to complete her MSA, with a concentration in forensic accounting, from Western New England University. She will then begin studying for the CPA exams.

Pedruczny comes to the firm with accounting experience across the real estate, manufacturing, and consumer-product fields. As an associate at MBK, she works primarily on nonprofit clients and employee benefit plans, from small companies and schools to large corporations. She graduated from the Isenberg School of Management with a BBA in accounting and is currently pursuing her CPA license.

“Each of these women represent the wellspring of young business and accounting talent we have right here in Western Massachusetts,” said MBK Partner Howard Cheney. “At MBK, we consider ourselves fortunate to tap into the vital resources of the next generation and bring them into the fold to grow and thrive along with the firm and our clients.”

Cover Story

Brush with Fame

Joe Ventura holds the cleat he made for Patriots defensive lineman Alan Branch for the ‘My Cleats, My Cause’ program.

Joe Ventura holds the cleat he made for Patriots defensive lineman Alan Branch for the ‘My Cleats, My Cause’ program.

The word ‘artist’ covers a lot of ground when talking about Joe Ventura. The Ludlow-based entrepreneur is lead singer for what’s considered the leading Bon Jovi tribute band in the country, and he custom airbrushes everything from hockey goalie helmets to cars and motorcycles. His latest canvas has become footwear, as in football cleats through the NFL’s ‘My Cleats, My Cause’ program. For Ventura, it’s a foothold, in every aspect of that word, into another business opportunity.

Joe Ventura was clearly proud of the colorful shoe he had just created for New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead as part of the NFL’s ‘My Cleats, My Cause’ program.

But he understood that probably the most important touch, and easily the most poignant, would not come via his talented hand.

Indeed, these Nike cleats, size 12½, were to be shipped out to Atkinson, Neb. within a few days. There, they would be signed by Jack Hoffman, a truly inspirational 12-year-old with pediatric brain cancer who developed a special relationship with Burkhead while the latter was toting the rock for the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers.

That bond remains strong, and Team Jack, an initiative embraced by the Nebraska players to raise money for cancer research, is Burkhead’s choice when it comes to the ‘my cause’ part of the NFL’s popular new program, to be celebrated during the full slate of games set for the first week of December.

As for the cleats part, well, Ventura, a Ludlow-based artist, came to the attention of the Patriots, and eventually Burkhead, in a roundabout way we’ll get to in a minute. Joe V, as he’s known to friends and those who get a close-up look at his work — that’s how he signs his creations — is now working on cleats for a few representatives of the team.

The cleat bound for Rex Burkhead’s locker will first be sent to Nebraska to be signed by the inspirational Jack Hoffman.

The cleat bound for Rex Burkhead’s locker will first be sent to Nebraska to be signed by the inspirational Jack Hoffman.

For Burkhead, he fashioned cleats that feature the words ‘Team Jack,’ a silhouette of the running back with Hoffman, and images of the boy from today and roughly four and half years ago, when, while wearing Burkhead’s number 22, he entered a Nebraska spring game and ran 69 yards for a touchdown.

For defensive lineman Alan Branch, who wears a size-16 shoe, Ventura had a little more real estate to work with, and took full advantage of it, fashioning a likeness of one of Branch’s daughters upon one of the cartoon characters used to promote his cause, FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education).

The cleats represent a new entrepreneurial and artistic beachhead for Ventura, who already had several — both on his résumé and on display in the workshop behind his Ludlow home. In addition to being lead singer for a Bon Jovi tribute band called Bon Jersey (yes, a guy nicknamed Joe V plays in a Bon Jovi tribute band), he is also an amateur dirt-bike racer and artist specializing in custom airbrush painting of everything from hockey goalie helmets to motorcycles to a few cars (including a Ford Mustang for one of the Patriots).

“I’ll paint … just about anything that can be painted,” he said, while scrolling through his phone for the photo of that Mustang, now featuring the famous Patriots logo. “I’m always looking for new opportunities, new things I can do.”

And while he’s certainly not limiting his sights to sports, he has always looked upon that realm as a fairly recession-proof niche for his venture.

“When I started this business, the first thing I thought of was, ‘what can I do if the market crashes so I can still do my job?’” he recalled. “The answer was sports.”

When asked what was in the business plan for Joe V Designs, Ventura gave a shrug of his shoulders as if to indicate that he wasn’t sure, exactly. But he hinted broadly that there would be more of everything already in the portfolio, and hopefully some new wrinkles.

That includes work for MGM Springfield, which is in talks with Ventura to create some murals for the $950 million casino set to open in less than a year. He has already fashioned a preliminary work — a scene, circa 1931, that depicts three Springfield motorcycle police officers with the entrance to the Indian Motocycle manufacturing facility in Mason Square in the background.

For this issue, BusinessWest talked at length with Ventura about his many forms of artistic expression — and entrepreneurial spirit — and about what might come next as he continues to fill in the canvas of an already-colorful career.

Signature Works

The orange Nike box declared that the sneakers inside were size 10, and the model was the Air Zoom Vomero 12.

The name on the shoebox tells a big part of the story

The name on the shoebox tells a big part of the story of how Joe Ventura is finding new opportunities to fill in the canvas of an already-colorful career.

But the two words typed on white tape across the side told the real story: Bill Belichick.

Indeed, the legendary coach is the third Patriots representative to engage Ventura in creating some shoes for ‘My Cleats, My Cause,’ only Belichick’s aren’t exactly cleats.

And Ventura wasn’t exactly sure what he was doing with those sneakers when he talked with BusinessWest much earlier this month. He was awaiting further instruction, as they say, and not from the coach himself.

“Bill wants a sketch of the shoe before I do it … he’s a little busy; it would be hard for him to stop what he’s doing to talk about a shoe,” deadpanned Ventura, adding that all he knew at that point was that he would be fashioning something that conveyed the Bill Belichick Foundation (BBF), which strives to provide coaching, mentorship, and financial support to individuals, communities, and organizations, and focuses on football and lacrosse.

And while Ventura is honored to be a client of the only coach to win five Super Bowls, and he did quickly put a picture of that Nike box with Belichick’s name on it up on his Facebook page, he doesn’t exactly get star-struck.

That’s because he’s worked with quite a few lights over the years. These are names that most casual sports fans might not know, but they are stars in their own galaxies nonetheless.

Like Jonathon Quick, goaltender for the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, for whom Ventura has designed a number of masks. And Dwayne Roloson, a long-time NHL netminder who played for a host of teams. And John Muse, who played his college hockey at Boston College and now patrols the net for Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League.

Even less well-known are some of the dirt-bike stars for whom he’s created helmets. That list includes John Dowd, the former professional motocross racer from Chicopee also known as the ‘Junk Yard Dog’; Dowd’s son, Ryan; Robby Marshall; and many others.

Ventura creates several hundred hockey-goalie masks each year, including those for most major college programs — he’s one of only seven certified Bauer painters in the country — and he’s done a great deal of work in the motor-sports helmet realm as well.

And then, there are the Indian motorcycles, now made in Indiana, that he will custom-paint for clients.

“I’m all around, everywhere,” he said of both his work and where it ends up. “The hockey masks go all around the world, and I’ve handled all the custom work from Indian pretty much since they opened.”

Still, it was his other career, more than a quarter-century as lead singer for Bon Jersey, that ultimately paved the way for his work with ‘My Cleats, My Cause.’

“One of my fans from the band is Brad Berlin, the equipment manager for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,” he recalled. “He was so into our music and what we did that he forgot what I did for a living. When they started ‘My Cleats, My Cause’ last year, they were frantic in Tampa trying to find artists; they had to go to California, one guy went to Maryland…

“Then, he remembered what I did for a living, and he sent me two sets of cleats that he wanted me to mock up, one for Tampa and one for New England,” he went on, adding that his mockup for the Pats — one that featured the team’s logo on a shoe that appeared to be made out of steel — obviously turned some heads.

Because, when Ventura went to the Patriots game against the Bucaneers in Tampa on Oct. 5, he got a sideline pass, met some players, and made some connections that turned into assignments.

He garnered the three mentioned above, plus defensive lineman Lawrence Guy and some of the team’s equipment personnel, and may get another for Brian Hoyer, the former Patriots quarterback now back with the team after the Jimmy Garoppolo trade. Also, he’s the unofficial go-to artist for anyone on the team who doesn’t have an artist.

Meanwhile, his contact information somehow got sent to the Buffalo Bills and, eventually, their equipment manager, who asked Ventura to create a few sets of cleats for their quarterback, Tyrod Taylor.

“From what the equipment manager told me, he took one look at them and said, basically, ‘I want this guy,’” said Ventura, adding that he’s awaiting some instructions from the player on what he’s looking for.

Different Strokes

Ventura likes to say that he lives in his backyard.

While that’s an exaggeration, it’s not far from the truth.

Indeed, the artist — that’s a phrase that covers a lot of territory, to be sure — spends large chunks of each day in a studio that can’t be seen from the street, provides no hint of the work going on inside, and is nondescript in almost every way. Except maybe when there’s a Nike box with Bill Belichick’s name on it on the work desk.

But it’s home — again, not literally, but for his growing business. And Ventura likes everything about it, especially the fact that no one knows it’s there.

“If I had a fancy storefront, I’d never get anything done,” he said, he said with a smile, noting that he doesn’t put an address on his colorful (what else would it be?) business card.

“There’s a phone number on there … if they want to find me, they can call me,” he said, adding that many people have, as evidenced by that deep and still-growing portfolio of work.

On the day BusinessWest visited, Ventura was referencing the recently completed left cleat bound for Nebraska, Jack Hoffman’s house, and, eventually, Burkhead’s locker.

This is the one with the image of a younger Hoffman, from when he was 7 or 8 years old. On the work bench was a photograph of the confident-looking 12-year-old, to be transferred onto the right cleat, which at that moment sported its basic white and black from the factory, with tape covering the cleats as Ventura prepared to go to work on it.

As he talked about Burkhead’s cleats, Ventura said that, like almost everything he does, this specific project is customized, and it tells a story — actually, several of them.

The first is the story the client wishes to tell, be it a reference to a nonprofit or something important enough to them to be painted on the chassis of a motorcycle. But there’s also Ventura’s story — specifically his attention to detail and desire to go above and beyond for the client.

Like with Burkhead. While what Ventura has done with the cleats is certainly creative and inspirational, the artist knew the crowning touch had to be a signature from Jack Hoffman.

And so he made those arrangements, with the signing to be videotaped and sent to Burkhead.

He also came up with the other design elements with little, if any, instruction beyond creating something that told the story of Team Jack.

“I had to do some research on it, and then my mind just starts to flow, and I come up with these ideas on how to do things,” he said, while giving ample credit to his partner, Jeff Ottomaniello, whom Ventura says he’s been training for the past 15 years.

The artist’s mindset came through when he was asked how long it took to create a cleat like the one bound for Nebraska.

“When you’re doing a portrait like that for a cleat, which is highly impossible, it could take a day to do that one cleat,” he explained. “But I don’t like to talk about how long it takes, because it’s not how much time it takes, it’s being able to create that image; it’s more of the passion of being able to do it.”

Where this passion will take him in the future is a question without a clear answer. Like the famous coach he’s creating shoes for, Ventura doesn’t get very emotional — or very detailed — when he talks about what comes next.

He didn’t say “on to Cincinnati,” but implied that it was on to whatever work his current portfolio — or even his work with Bon Jersey — might inspire.

“My favorite sport is football, and for me to be involved in this [cleats] program is pretty cool for me,” he told BusinessWest. “Once this is done, we’re going to make a portfolio and send it to each one of the teams in the NFL; knowing that we have some backing from the people we’ve done work for, it will be a little easier for people to see us and maybe get more of these.”

As for MGM, he said he’s now in talks with the company about creating murals depicting scenes from Springfield past and present. If that comes to fruition, he believes that high-profile work may open even more doors down the road.

Getting a Foothold

Ventura said he wasn’t at all sure what happens to the cleats worn during ‘My Cleats, My Cause’ week when those games over.

He suspects some of them may be auctioned off or given to the charities in question for display, but he doesn’t know their exact fate.

He does know that the cleats he created for the Patriots, the ‘steel’ shoes, will be put on display at the Patriots headquarters in Foxboro.

His ‘Joe V’ signature won’t be very visible, but the cleats, like all his work, including that with Bon Jersey, seemingly lead to additional opportunities.

In other words, he’s waiting for the other shoe to drop — literally and figuratively.

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

Entrepreneurship Sections

Venturing Forth

Paul Silva

Paul Silva says Launch413 one of two new startups he has launched himself, will fill a recognized gap in the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Paul Silva uses the word ‘retired’ when he references his departure (at least as a full-time employee) from Valley Venture Mentors (VVM), the groundbreaking nonprofit he co-founded to assist startups and next-stage companies.

And he acknowledged that he gets some strange looks when he does, not simply because he’s only 40 — and people that age usually aren’t retired from anything other than professional sports — but also because they can’t fathom why he would leave the organization he has helped lead to great success.

As for that word ‘retire,’ he said it sounds better than most all of the alternatives he could use, like ‘moved on,’ or ‘left,’ or even ‘transitioned from,’ all of which, or at least the first two, have largely negative connotations, at least in his opinion.

“Unfortunately, we really don’t have a good word for when you hand your startup off to the next group of people,” he explained. “Maybe someone will come with one; I’m open to suggestions.”

Meanwhile, as to why he retired, that will take a lot longer to explain. There is a short answer — that he considers doing so beneficial for him (ultimately), VVM, and the region as a whole — but one couldn’t possibly leave it at that. One would need to explain why that’s the case, and we’ll do most of that in a bit.

First, though, we’ll get to that ‘better for the region’ part.

In short, Silva said he can now focus his efforts — or a good portion of them, anyway, because his time will now be split in a number of ways — on filling what he called the next “gap” in the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

That would be the one between organizations like VVM and the services they provide, and investing groups like the one Silva leads, River Valley Investors (RVI).

“For the past three years, VVM has been kicking ass at graduating startups, and good ones,” he explained. “And they come to my angel group and…”

His voice tailed off a bit as he noted that some come to angel investors ready, willing, and able to get to the next stage, and thus have relatively little trouble gaining all-important financial backing. Many others are willing, but not exactly ready or able. And this is where Launch413 comes in.

“Most early-stage investors don’t want to pay for the entrepreneur’s education in the many aspects of running a business, like selling and financials,” he explained. “So they don’t know how to operationalize and execute their business model. They graduate from VVM with a great business model, with evidence that it’s the right business, but they’re often missing great chunks of skills on how to get there; Launch413 parachutes in and fills the gap.”

But such skydiving will only fill part of Silva’s calendar. Indeed, as noted earlier, he is splitting his time between a number of different endeavors, including not one, but two new startups.

You have to know what your strengths and weaknesses are professionally. I know what I love to do; I love to teach and work with the entrepreneurs, and I’m really good at that. To be the CEO of an organization that’s scaling up is a very different set of skills.”

“I’m a glutton for punishment,” he said, adding that the second is called the Lean Innovation Institute (LII).

In simple terms, this initiative is an adaptation, and expansion, of VVM’s manufacturing accelerator, initiated last year, but orphaned by that agency (Silva’s word) because it didn’t exactly meld with its mission.

Sensing an opportunity, he essentially took ownership of that initiative with the intention of selling it to a host of sectors. And he’s already making headway with one he didn’t exactly expect — nonprofits, as we’ll see later.

The new adventures of Paul Silva — yes, he’s the one who wears the ties patterned with the likenesses of cartoon characters — are all spelled out on the back of his new business card — if you should happen to get one and have the time to read everything on it.

On the front, it declares he’s a startup advisor, angel-group leader, and innovation accelerator. For this issue and its focus on entrepreneurship, BusinessWest talked with Silva about those various talents and how he’s developed them into his own intriguing startups.

In Good Company

Getting back to why he was phased out of VVM at his request — that’s another way he phrased what’s happened — Silva said it’s beneficial for VVM because the agency is growing, expanding, and moving in new directions, and he is not exactly suited to lead an agency at that stage. By retiring, others more suited to that work can step in, he said, mentioning Liz Roberts, VVM’s CEO, by name.

As to why it’s better for him … well, if he stayed in a role he wasn’t really suited for, he said he wouldn’t enjoy it much, if at all.

“You have to know what your strengths and weaknesses are professionally,” he told BusinessWest. “I know what I love to do; I love to teach and work with the entrepreneurs, and I’m really good at that. To be the CEO of an organization that’s scaling up is a very different set of skills.

“I knew I had reached my limit,” he went on. “And if I wanted VVM to keep growing, either it was going to grow slower while I learned, or it could grow faster with Liz, who had already been there, done that, and been successful. And even if I could learn, I don’t think I would like it.”

So, after some due diligence and explaining to people that he was soon to be a ‘free agent,’ as he put it, Silva moved on to some things he does like.

Such as the broad mission of Launch413.

That name pretty much says it all — it’s focused on helping companies in Western Mass. get well off the ground — but its method of operation needs some explaining.

Working with several venture partners, Silva will parachute in, as he put it, and act as a venture fund in many ways, but the investment is in time and expertise, not dollars. In exchange for those investments, Launch413 gets a piece of the company’s future revenue.

This concept is called royalty financing, and while not exactly new, it has been gaining traction in recent years. That’s because entrepreneurs don’t want to give up a piece of their business, as in equity financing, but are more willing to part with a percentage of future revenues.

But royalty financing has benefits for both sides in this equation, especially in a smaller market like Western Mass., Silva explained.

“If I take equity in a company, the only way I get paid is if the company sells,” he said, adding quickly that there are other ways investors can reap dividends in such cases, but the company in question would have to be doing very well. “With a royalty deal, my incentive is in line with helping the company succeed; if they make money, I’ll get paid faster.”

Launch413 is currently working with one company, and Silva expects to soon be working on a batch of up to four. He will limit the number and start small, he said, to learn about what works and what doesn’t.

“We’ll figure out how much larger we can make the batches over time,” he said, adding that, given the great amount of entrepreneurial energy in the region, he expects Launch413 to flourish.

As for LII, as noted earlier, it is solidly based on VVM’s manufacturing accelerator, which was different from a traditional accelerator in that it focused on established companies rather than those just getting off the ground, which is why it became a business opportunity for Silva.

“VVM wants to focus on startups, which makes sense, because one of the great dangers with nonprofits is mission creep and losing focus,” he explained.

But the manufacturing accelerator was very similar to the traditional model in the way it prompted participants to identify who their customers were, what they wanted and needed, and how this should drive change moving forward.

And the LII (so named because it will hopefully involve companies in all sectors) will do all of the above with established entities, including a constituency Silva wasn’t exactly expecting when he launched: nonprofits.

He’s working with one at present — Pathlight, formerly the Assoc. for Community Living — and running pretty much the same curriculum put to use with the manufacturers at VVM.

Elaborating, Silva said Pathlight, which helps intellectually disabled individuals lead full and productive lives, developed a curriculum to help it meet that mission, one that could be adopted by other nonprofits doing similar work.

“They see this as an opportunity to create revenue from something they built that would help further their mission,” he explained, adding that the accelerator he’s running is focused on developing and maximizing this opportunity — one that amounts to a startup business.

“It looks like we have something that might make a difference here,” he went on, adding that he believes there is potential to add many more nonprofits to the portfolio moving forward because of changing dynamics within that sector, which has a huge presence in this region.

“The competitive pressure to raise grant dollars is intense,” he explained, “especially because Western Mass. has more nonprofits than just about anywhere else. So they need to find new ways of generating revenue; they need to think differently and in more innovative ways. It’s shocking how many of them don’t actually think about their customers and what they really need because they believe they know already.”

Meanwhile, he’s had discussions with Ira Bryck, director of the Family Business Center of Western Mass., about possibly running similar accelerators for groups of that agency’s members.

Overall, he said his business plan, like LII’s website, is very much a work in progress because, at the moment, he’s busy practicing what he preaches — meaning he’s figuring out who his potential customers are and what they want.

“If you asked me a year ago if nonprofits would be excited by this curriculum, I would have said ‘no,’” he explained. “But it turns out, among the sectors I’ve talked to, nonprofits are the most excited about this.”

Transition Game

Summing up the many changes in his life, career-wise at least, over the past several months, Silva acknowledged that he has taken a fairly sizable risk when it comes to leaving the steady employment provided by VVM.

But with the blessing of his wife — “she said, ‘this is the right thing for VVM; I’m proud of you’” — he gladly accepted that risk and moved on to something different and, in his opinion, at least equally rewarding, only in different ways.

This is what entrepreneurs do, and anyone who knows Silva is quick to grasp that he not only mentors and motivates such individuals; he is one himself.

 

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

Daily News

AMHERST — Yubing Sun, a professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at UMass Amherst, is using a three-year, $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the biomechanical forces and chemical factors that cause birth defects of the brain and spinal cord in the first few weeks of fetal development. Known as neural tube defects, these conditions occur when critical parts of the central nervous system don’t develop properly.

Sun said researchers have some knowledge about neural-tube defects and know that folic acid greatly reduces the risk for the defects, but they don’t know why.

During the first few weeks of development in pregnancy, a ribbon of tissue turns into a tube that becomes the spinal cord and brain. When the tube fails to close or is incomplete, birth defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly occur. Sun said he wants to gain a greater understanding of the mechanical and chemical factors that guide the development of the neural tubes, and will use human cells to study this.

Because stem cells are the basic building blocks of the human body, they rely on mechanical and chemical signals to develop into specific types of tissue like bone and nerves, Sun said. His research will seek to understand how the stem cells that create the neural tubes get those signals and instructions on how to develop.

“We want to provide an engineered environment similar to the organization in our body,” he noted, adding that the stem cells likely respond to both mechanical forces, such as pressure from tissue boundaries, and chemical signals that vary according to where it goes in the cell and in what concentration. “We want to know the details of that mechanism.”

The researchers will test the idea that micro-patterned cell-culture environments can cause human cells to mimic the spatial patterning of cells as they develop in the body by responding to confinement of tissues and changing chemical gradient.

“This is an important first step to tease out the mechanics of neural development,” Sun said. “This also has great promise for regenerative medicine.”

Sun is the head of the College of Engineering’s Laboratory for Multiscale Bioengineering and Mechanobiology, which applies and integrates fundamental engineering principles — such as manufacturing, biomechanics, materials science, and micro- or nano-engineering — to understand and harness the mechano-biology of stem cells for modeling currently incurable human diseases and for applications in regenerative medicine.

Daily News

LUDLOW — Meredith-Springfield Associates Inc., a plastics manufacturer specializing in extrusion blow molding and injection stretch blow molding, was recently named ‘Manufacturer of the Year’ by the Commonwealth’s Manufacturing Caucus.

President and CEO Mel O’Leary recently accepted the award alongside Director of Finance and Administration Edward Kaplan during a presentation at the Massachusetts State House.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 3.7% in October, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 4,800 jobs in October. Over the month, the private sector added 4,100 jobs as gains occurred in leisure and hospitality; professional, scientific, and business services; other services; financial activities; manufacturing; construction; and information. The September estimate was revised to a gain of 10,300 jobs.

From October 2016 to October 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 69,000 jobs. The October unemployment rate was four-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 4.1% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The low unemployment rate and job gains are indicators of the ongoing strength of the economy in Massachusetts. But not all communities and regions are feeling the benefits of this economy equally. Our workforce-development programs continue to prioritize closing skills gaps and connecting all citizens of the Commonwealth to prosperous career pathways,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta said.

The labor force decreased by 13,400 from 3,669,500 in September, as 5,600 fewer residents were employed and 7,700 fewer residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased five-tenths of a percentage point from 3.2% in October 2016. There were 19,600 more unemployed residents over the year compared to October 2016.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased three-tenths of a percentage point to 65.5% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has increased by 0.8% compared to October 2016.

The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in other services; construction; professional, scientific, and business services; financial activities; and education and health services.

Daily News

LONGMEADOW — At the fifth annual Cybersecurity Summit held recently at the Longmeadow campus of Bay Path University, keynote speaker and Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech) CEO Timothy Connelly told summit attendees that cybersecurity is a top issue for Gov. Charlie Baker and MassTech.

According to Connelly, MassTech is making cybersecurity a priority “because we recognize this is the fastest-growing sector. This is why we established the MassTech Cyber Growth and Development Center. Governor Charlie Baker thinks this is a terrific market that can produce sustainable jobs as long as we develop the needed talent.”

MassTech CEO Timothy Connelly and Bay Path President Carol Leary

MassTech CEO Timothy Connelly and Bay Path President Carol Leary

Connelly noted that there is currently a talent deficit in the field, with more than 8,000 available jobs in cybersecurity in Massachusetts. The Commonwealth is the number-one generator of STEM graduates nationally, and is home to 37 of the 500 most innovative security companies in the world, second only to California, he added.

MassTech is a public agency created to support the innovation economy in the Commonwealth and help support formation and growth of the state’s technology sector. Connelly is head of the newly established Cybersecurity Center at MassTech.

Other speakers at the summit included Tim Russell, supervisory special agent in Cybersecurity, FBI Boston; and Carol Leary, Bay Path president. This year’s summit was titled “Building a Cybersecurity Ecosystem: the Roles of Higher Education, Law Enforcement, and Technology.”

“It is critical for higher education to be a central part of this emerging cyber ecosystem,” said Leary, who serves as a member of the Department of Homeland Security’s Academic Advisory Council. “We are developing the right talent, the diverse talent needed to be a part of the cybersecurity workforce. To the students pursuing a cybersecurity career — you are the future, you are qualified, and we need you more than ever.”

Added Russell, “cybersecurity is a human-capital issue and is an entire company endeavor. All should be part of developing a cyber ecosystem. Engagement and collaboration with government and law enforcement is important in detection.”

The summit was co-sponsored by the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts. According to Rick Sullivan, president and CEO, “The EDC is focused on growing our economy, and one of our greatest assets is higher education. We want to develop economic-development sectors that are new and cutting-edge. We can become a center of excellence in cybersecurity, and our colleges and universities can help us grow that sector. I want to thank Bay Path University for being the leader in the cybersecurity sector, and we are here to follow your lead.”

According to Thomas Loper, associate provost and dean of the School of Science and Management at Bay Path, the summit drew over 200 people, including professionals in the cybersecurity field; small-business owners; executives from financial-services, manufacturing, insurance, and healthcare organizations; and students, faculty, and staff from the region’s colleges.

Accounting and Tax Planning Sections

Tax Incentives for Business Owners

By Brenden Healy, CPA

Brenden Healy, CPA

Brenden Healy, CPA

Whether we like it or not, taxes are a part of any business strategy. From the federal level on down, tax obligations go side-by-side with running a business. And while the economy is getting better for much of the country, business owners need to continue to improve their bottom line. One good way to strengthen business cash flow is by taking advantage of tax credits or tax incentives. Business owners sometimes do not harvest these opportunities, most often because they don’t know about all the options available to them or because they don’t fully understand the requirements.

Capturing these benefits requires knowing to look for them, which can be an issue in the diverse tax rules of the IRS or state taxing authorities. Here are some tax opportunities that every business owner should know about:

• Research and Development Tax Credit: This credit was introduced as an incentive to encourage new innovation in the U.S., but remains one of the most overlooked tax opportunities out there. There’s a lot of misconception that a research-driven credit must be limited to modern, large tech firms that are putting out new products. However, the purpose of this credit is to fuel innovation and development, which is relevant to a variety of industries, of all sizes. Recent changes in IRS regulations have opened up this tax credit to many industries. Manufacturing, investment-management services, software development, and even construction are major industries that can take advantage of this tax-savings opportunity, but it can be applied to other industries in certain scenarios.

• Export Sales: The IRS allows companies that produce goods in the U.S. and then export them outside the border to take advantage of a reduced tax rate for some of the profits relating to those export sales. This is accomplished by converting the business income related to the exports into long-term capital-gain income, which is usually taxed at about half the normal business tax rate.

• Write-Off of Asset Purchases: This incentive is one of the most beneficial ones for small businesses. The IRS continues to allow generous write-offs for purchasing equipment, machines, computers, etc. through the Section 179 tax-expensing election with a 2017 deduction limit of about $500,000, or the 50% ‘bonus’ depreciation deduction, which could be used after that spending cap is reached.

• New IRS Capitalization-policy Rules: Just by making a special election on the tax return, a small business can adopt a policy of expensing items purchased during the year, up to $2,500 for each item. As an example, if a business buys 10 computers for $1,500 each, it could expense the full $15,000 of computers under this capitalization policy rule.

• Roof Repairs and Other Building Maintenance Costs: The IRS is also allowing real-estate owners to take advantage of writeoffs relating to building maintenance items. Under new IRS rules, certain roof repairs and other building maintenance items can be expensed in the year they are completed, instead of capitalizing those costs and depreciating them over a 39-year period of time, which was the old requirement.

• ‘Segregation’ of Building Costs for Tax Expensing: When a business owner buys a new building or makes significant improvements to a building, there can be ways to expense those costs faster than the normal, 39-year depreciation life that the tax law allows. By identifying certain costs such as non-structural items, wall coverings, or specialty lighting, the IRS allows the building owner to expense these costs at a faster rate. Thus, performing a ‘cost-segregation study’ can create large tax writeoffs up front instead of waiting 39 years to recover the investment.

• Compensation and Retirement Planning: The IRS also allows business owners to put away large amounts towards their retirement as well as the retirement of key employees of the business. By properly designing a compensation strategy and deferred-compensation planning options, business owners can take care of their key employees while saving tax money.

Leveraging tax incentives can greatly help buffer a company’s bottom line, but more often than not, business owners don’t know what’s available to them. It’s crucial that business owners have open conversations with their accountant about the work of the company to see if there are opportunities available. While these programs can be complex and difficult to navigate, they can save a business a significant amount of money.


Brenden Healy, CPA, is a partner at Whittlesey with significant experience in consulting with business owners to identify tax incentives and strategic planning for their future.

Community Profile Features

‘Something’s Bubbling’

Downtown Greenfield

Downtown Greenfield is becoming a destination, as are other communities in Franklin County.

Franklin County, the state’s most rural county, and also its poorest, faces a host of challenges today — from a declining and aging population to poor broadband service in most of its communities, to statistically lower wages for comparable jobs. But those working to spur economic development and improve quality of life here see progress in many forms and vast opportunities to attract the young people who covet many of things this region can offer them.

John Lunt was looking to make a point about Franklin County in general, and the amount of developable land in and around Greenfield in particular, and to do so effectively, he recalled a recent conversation he had with Jay Ashe, the state’s secretary of Housing and Economic Development.

“We were talking about land that small precision manufacturers could potentially develop on, and he said something like, ‘you’re in Western Mass., Franklin County — you must have a ton of land,’” said Lunt, director of Special Projects and Economic Development in Greenfield, adding quickly that this is not the case at all.

“The land that we have available for those kinds of manufacturing jobs is pretty much gone,” he explained, referring especially to Greenfield. “We have some land that’s zoned ‘planned industrial,’ but there isn’t a business in the world that would build on it because of slope and ledge and things that make it to difficult to prepare.”

John Lunt

John Lunt says collaboration is a necessary quality in rural Franklin County, as is independence and an entrepreneurial approach to progress.

Lunt recalled his conversation with Ashe to make another point — that many of the perceptions about rural Franklin County, like the one about land to develop, are not exactly on the mark.

Others include the widely held belief that families and businesses do not want to locate there, the notion that the region doesn’t have much of what the Millennial generation is looking for, and the perception that manufacturing is all but dead in a region that had been economically dominated by it for centuries.

“Manufacturing is still doing very well here, but it’s changed somewhat; many large companies involved in traditional manufacturing have left,” said Patricia Crosby, executive director of the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board. “Many smaller ones have stayed, and new companies have come here; they’re mostly involved in precision manufacturing or fabricated metals, and they’re doing extremely well, and they’re adding a few employees each year.”

Meanwhile, others we spoke with said Franklin County is, in fact, becoming a landing spot for Millennials — generally older Millennials who are ready to settle down, and especially those who are active and into outdoor sports (much more on that later).

Unfortunately, though, many other perceptions about this region are far more accurate, to the point where they become statistics. These include the fact that this is the poorest county in the state; that wages here are well below the state average for comparable jobs — a real factor in the region’s struggles to attract young people; that broadband service doesn’t exist in many of the communities in the county; that public transportation is sorely lacking; that the age of the population in those communities is rising at almost alarming levels; and that, while unemployment is fairly low at 3%, this is a misleading statistic because many individuals have stopped looking for work, and others are unemployable.

But while rural Franklin County has more than its fair share of challenges, there are a number of signs of progress and abundant hope that there will be many more in the months and years to come.

Start with the Five Eyed Fox, a restaurant and bar in Turners Falls that is making that community just east of Greenfield a destination and what some even called a ‘hot spot,’ a term not used in that community for some time.

“It’s super hip and cool to be in Turners Falls,” said Natalie Blais, executive director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, and also the local tourism board. “It’s the place to be; Turners is sort of leading this whole retro, hip scene.”

It’s super hip and cool to be in Turners Falls. It’s the place to be; Turners is sort of leading this whole retro, hip scene.”

Then there’s the Orange Innovation Center, a co-working space in a community in what’s known as the North Quabbin area, the eastern edge of the county. Created in a factory where General Foods once produced Minute Tapioca pudding for roughly seven decades, the space now hosts an eclectic group of tenants ranging from a music studio and to a fitness club to the Center for Human Development.

And at Greenfield Community College (GCC), the only college in the county, a number of new programs have been created to help provide job seekers with the skills they’ll need to succeed in a changing, information-based economy.

Linda Dunleavy

Linda Dunleavy says Franklin County is becoming an attractive landing spot for what she called ‘older Millennials,’ who are looking for a place to settle down.

Perhaps most importantly, though, an ecosystem is emerging. It’s comprised of a number of nonprofits, the college, government entities, and employers across several sectors, and while it’s still taking shape and finding its bearings, it is addressing the issues and problems facing the region through collaboration and efforts to maximize available resources. And it is also taking a more organized approach to the work of bringing families, businesses, young people, retirees — and opportunity — to the region.

For this issue, BusinessWest talked with several individuals who are part of this ecosystem about the various forms of progress being recorded — and the considerable work that remains.

Buy the Numbers

Collaboration is needed because the challenges facing Franklin County are numerous, and many of them are complex and defy easy answers — or any answers, for that matter.

Indeed, after talking about how wages in Franklin County are statistically lower than those in other areas and roughly 65% of what is paid statewide, Crosby, who noted that it’s been this way since she came to the REB 16 years ago, was asked the obvious question: why?

She paused for a moment and said simply, “because employers can get away with it.” And they can, because the factors that drive wages higher in other areas — a scarcity of workers and heightened competition for qualified talent — are not in evidence here, with some exceptions, as we’ll see.

That statistic regarding wages is only one of many eye-opening numbers that come to the forefront when talking about Franklin County. Many of the others drive home just how rural this area is: there are 72,000 people living in 26 communities across 725 square miles. In several communities, such as Rowe, Hawley, Heath, and others, stating the total population requires only three digits. In Monroe, one barely needs three; the latest census had 121 people living there.

The people living in those 26 towns are the poorest in the state in terms of per-capita income and, as noted, average wage per job, said Linda Dunleavy, executive director of the Franklin Region Council of Governments.

And, by and large, the population of the county is falling, said Alyce Stiles, dean of Workforce Development & Community Education at GCC. She said the enrollment at the county’s public schools is down significantly in recent years — which doesn’t bode well for the college or the region and its business community.

“That has layers of ramifications for us,” she said. “There are fewer people going into the community-college system, and then fewer people going into the workforce.”

And the population is getting older, said Roseann Martoccia, who should know. She’s the executive director of LifePath Inc., a nonprofit that works to help seniors age in place. She noted that 17% of the county’s residents are over age 65 (the state average is 15%), and in some of the smaller, western communities, the number exceeds 20%.

“And those percentages, in some communities, are expected to double by 2030,” she told BusinessWest. “And that’s not that far away.”

Behind all the numbers is a kind of operating mindset, if you will, one defined by a form of independence that is understandable when one considers how far away this county is from Boston or even Springfield — and not just in terms of geography.

“Collaboration comes from necessity,” said Lunt. “We have to be more independent, and we have to be more entrepreneurial, because whether we want it or not, most people realize that help isn’t really coming from farther east.”

The statistics, as well as this mindset, are just some of the things that Cindy Russo has learned she since became president of Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, the county’s largest employer, roughly 18 months ago.

“I knew absolutely nothing about Franklin County before I came here, and about the only name I recognized was Yankee Candle,” she said, referring to the iconic Deerfield-based manufacturer and retailer. “Everything else, I had to learn.”

Cindy Russo

Cindy Russo, who became president of Baystate Franklin Medical Center in 2016, says she can sense gathering momentum in the region.

She’s learned, among other things, that the region has a strong sense of community spirit, as well as a great deal of natural beauty and a bounty of outdoor recreation to offer, from fishing to hiking; from skiing to whitewater rafting. She’s also learned that a large number of nonprofits operate in the region — often in collaboration with each other to meet a wide variety of missions.

She’s also come to recognize that it’s somewhat difficult to recruit doctors and other medical professionals to this rural area, despite its various amenities and lower lost of housing and living in general.

“That is certainly a challenge,” she said. “One of the biggest ways we’re able to attract people is if there’s a connection — they have family here or their roots are here — but also the beauty of this region and the hiking and other outdoor activity; those are strong selling points.”

Another challenge, meanwhile, is keeping young professionals, she said, adding that more than 50% of Baystate Franklin’s employees have less than five years of experience.

“Many times, we’ll get a new nurse from GCC, and they’ll start their practice at Baystate Franklin,” she explained. “But then they might be looking out for the sexier markets, like Boston. So we have to think of ways to keep them here.”

But since arriving, she’s observed something else — gathering momentum when it comes to the region being a destination for everything from a fun night out to a place to raise a family, to a spot where one can enjoy retirement. “There’s something bubbling here; even in the short time I’ve been here, I’m feeling it,” she said, adding that the region is becoming something it probably doesn’t want to become — a best-kept secret.

Land of Opportunity

There was some general agreement about that notion of something bubbling among those we spoke with. People talked about momentum and the region making strides toward becoming something it’s never really been, or hasn’t been for some time — a destination, on several levels.

Start with a night out — at the Five-Eyed Fox, or a growing number of alternatives.

“There’s great food and drink; there’s much more of a local arts scene than people than people think,” said Lunt. “We actually toured the Mass. Cultural Council around, and they were kind of blown away by what they saw out here.

“There are a lot of artists studios,” he went on. “There’s a lot of local theater, and Greenfield’s gone from having not that many restaurants to having 13 different kinds of cuisine. It’s not uncommon at all to do something you really couldn’t do here 10 or 15 years ago — families go out, have something to eat, and then go to a local show or theater or listen to some music.”

And then, there’s tourism in general. Blais said the region has built a solid infrastructure of attractions that includes ski resorts, ziplining and whitewater-rafting outfits, fishing, boating, and more, and needs to more aggressively promote what it has and build that important sector of the economy.

But those within this ecosystem also talked about destination in a bigger sense — as in a place for a family to settle or a business to put down roots.

And some younger families are moving into Greenfield and other communities, like Turners Falls, because of what they offer, said Blais.

“There’s lots of culture and live music,” she explained. “And with all the breweries and cideries in the region, we’re really seeing young people being interested in coming here.”

Dunleavy agreed, but narrowed the definition of ‘young’ somewhat. She said the region is more attractive to older young people, those with familes, those who might have roots in the region, or those who might have left in search of something else and now value what they left behind.

“It’s Millennials at a different stage of their life,” she said, adding that, despite recognized progress in this realm, there needs to be a large, concerted, and collaborative (there’s that word again) effort to sell the county as an attractive place to live.

“As a group of organizational leaders, we were talking about how we need to have the same mission — attracting young people and young families to Franklin County,” Dunleavy explained. “We should all identify how our organization will do that and work together to implement a region-wide strategy, because we need to bring more people to Franklin County and younger people to Franklin County.”

As for attracting businesses and jobs, the region faces a number of challenges, ranging from those broadband issues to the lack of developable land that Lunt mentioned.

“We never turn anyone away,” he said. “But we struggle when someone says, ‘we want a 40,000-square-foot building and 22 acres’ — we just don’t have that available.”

What is available are smaller lots, some old mill spaces, and office buildings downtown, he noted, adding that all of the above can be used toward something that Millennials, in general, seem to like: co-working space.

Several projects in this realm are already underway or in the planning stages, said Lunt, adding that they will helped by the town’s creation of a municipal broadband network that includes Internet, phone, and data services.

“The goal is to move people into these spaces by offering them more 21st-century infrastructure,” he explained, “because, as manufacturing-driven as we’ve been, we just can’t be in the future, because we just don’t have the space for it; we have to try to develop higher-tech businesses, and those are also businesses that pay well.”

Another challenge for the region involves the workforce. As noted earlier, unemployment is relatively low, but there are many who lack needed skills, have stopped searching for work, or are unemployable.

Stiles said the broad goal is to help individuals gain needed skills and fill positions in growing fields, such as healthcare and precision manufacturing.

She mentioned specific programs created at GGC for the precision-manufacturing and medical-assisting fields, just two of many where jobs exist and will exist in the years to come, and where companies consistently struggle to find good help.

Moving forward, she and others said the primary goal is to make the workforce larger and stronger, an initiative that is, in all ways, a work in progress.

Moving the Needle

Surveying the situation from many different angles, including that of a long-time resident and also someone working to stimulate economic development in the region, Lunt said the path Franklin County is on is the right one.

Elaborating, he said the many groups working to spur economic development and improve quality of life are moving the needle when it comes to generating progress and addressing the overriding challenge facing the county — creating enough good jobs to support the lifestyle that is the primary draw for this region.

“We could all live somewhere else, but we don’t — we choose not to,” Lunt told BusinessWest. Speaking for all those now part of the county’s emerging ecosystem, he said the broad goal is simply to inspire more people to take that same attitude.

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

Company Notebook Departments

STCC Partners with Northeastern University

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

United Bank Foundation Supports Baystate Project

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

AIC Named to Top 10 Small Colleges in State

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

Westfield Bank, Customers Raise Hurricane-relief Funds

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

State Awards HCC $229,500 for Culinary Arts Institute

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

Daily News

NORTHAMPTON — Beloved Earth, the Pioneer Valley’s first green cleaning company, has promoted employee Seth Schultz to the position of commercial services manager.

Schultz has worked for Beloved Earth since April 2016, providing services to commercial customers. In that time, the commercial side of the business has grown to include 30 clients. The residential-services side has 70 clients.

Previously, Schultz was a machine operator in the food-manufacturing industry. He has a bachelor’s degree in English from UMass.

“I’m excited about the promotion. I understand the business, and I feel up to the challenge of a managerial position,” Schultz said, noting that he shares the company’s earth-friendly philosophy.

Terra and David Missildine founded Beloved Earth in 2005 and have since been cleaning homes and offices using eco-friendly and non-toxic techniques. The business serves clients in Hampshire, Hampden, and Franklin counties.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — A new educational and workforce development partnership between Springfield Technical Community College and Northeastern University creates an opportunity for current STCC students, graduates and the general public to earn bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering technology and advanced manufacturing systems onsite at STCC.

In a ceremony on Wednesday at STCC, leaders from both institutions officially signed a memorandum of understanding to mark this partnership.

In the planning stages for more than a year, the agreement with STCC marks the first time Northeastern has partnered with a community college to offer bachelor’s degrees on site.

“Our engineering and manufacturing programs continue to be a signature of STCC, and we are very pleased to collaborate with Northeastern to deepen and enhance workforce efforts for Western Massachusetts,” said Dr. John B. Cook, president of STCC.

“We’re pleased to partner with Springfield Technical Community College as it expands opportunities for students,” said Dr. Mary Loeffelholz, dean, Northeastern University College of Professional Studies. “Both of our institutions value experiential learning and industry-aligned degrees to prepare students for career and life success.”

Students may choose either a pathway to a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering technology or in advanced manufacturing systems from Northeastern to be completed online and at STCC.  Both degrees are part of the Lowell Institute School at Northeastern, which offers 15 bachelor’s degree programs, 10 of which are available completely online.

“This partnership with STCC is in keeping with the mission and tradition of the Lowell Institute School which began when A. Lawrence Lowell created the Lowell Institute School for Industrial Foremen in 1903,” said Dr. Kemi Jona, founding director of the Lowell Institute School and associate dean of undergraduate programs. “The goal then was to bring essential knowledge and opportunity to the people doing the work driving the economy of the new century. Today, the Lowell Institute School is still committed to this goal, reaching students in new ways and places.”

The agreement maximizes convenience and cost-effectiveness for STCC graduates who wish to obtain bachelor’s degrees in the two programs, said Dr. Adrienne Smith, dean of the School of Engineering Technologies & Mathematics at STCC.

Smith said most STCC students have families in the area and would prefer to get their bachelor’s degrees in the Springfield area. In addition to some online courses, classes will take place in the evening and possibly Saturdays, a benefit for the many students who work full time during the day, she said.

“This is a great opportunity for our students,” Smith said. “Rather than traveling to Boston, they can come to our campus in the evening for classes. They are already familiar with our institution. They are familiar with our classrooms and labs. It will be like coming home to get their bachelor’s degree.”

Employment Sections

Hire Degree of Difficulty

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The region’s staffing industry has always been a solid barometer of the overall economy, and that is certainly true in this economy. Firms report that demand for qualified workers is high, and the pool of talent is small and in some respects shrinking. Meeting the demands of various sectors, firm owners and managers say, requires a mix of persistence, imagination, and, well, hard work.

Andrea Hill-Cataldo calls it the ‘Perm Division.’

That’s ‘perm,’ as in permanent-hire, or direct-hire, work. The venture she founded nearly 20 years ago, Johnson & Hill Staffing Services, has always provided such services. But they didn’t comprise a division of the company, and there weren’t staff members dedicated directly to them.

Until recently.

Indeed, the Perm Division is now staffed, and it is quite busy, said Hill-Cataldo, helping companies secure everything from administrative assistants to CFOs and CEOs. And it’s busy for several reasons.

They include the fact that many businesses, bolstered by a prolonged recovery that shows few if any signs of slowing down and challenged by everything from retiring Baby Boomers to on-the-move Millennials, are hiring. And also the fact that many of them need some help with that hiring.

“When businesses aren’t sure what they want to do, they might go temp or temp-to-hire, or they might just wait and see,” Hill-Cataldo explained, noting that the third option involves trying to get by without filling a vacancy. “But when they’re hiring on a permanent basis right off the bat, they’re pretty confident, and they know they need that position filled.”

The creation and consistent growth of Johnson & Hill’s Perm Division — and the reasons for both — are clear examples of how the staffing industry, as it’s called, is an effective economic indicator in its own right, and also how its operations essentially reflect, as a mirror would, what is happening with the local economy.

Andrea Hill-Cataldo

Andrea Hill-Cataldo says her company is meeting client clients and creating effective matches — but it is has never had to work harder to do so.

Discussions with Hill-Cataldo and others in this sector reveal that they are busy virtually across the board, meaning nearly all sectors of the economy; that they are handling increasing volumes of work in temp-to-hire and permanent hiring scenarios; and that they are becoming increasingly challenged when it comes to meeting the needs of their clients for qualified, motivated workers.

“Our work becomes more difficult as the pool of candidates gets smaller,” said Jennifer Brown, a certified staffing professional and vice president of Business Development at Springfield-based United Personnel, noting that, despite these challenges, the firm is meeting growing client needs across two main divisions — manufacturing and ‘professional’ positions.

All these developments reflect what is happening regionally, where companies are reasonably confident, need qualified help, and are having trouble finding it. And also where workers are equally confident, not shy about moving on to different challenges seemingly every few years, and are doing so in huge numbers, leaving their employers with the task of somehow replacing them, a situation that will certainly be exacerbated as MGM Springfield goes about filling roughly 3,000 positions over the next 10 months or so.

They also reflect the unemployment numbers and what’s behind them. This area’s jobless rate is higher than the state’s and the nation’s, which might sound beneficial for staffing agencies. But observers say it’s higher for a reason — most of those out of work lack many of the skills (technical and ‘people’ skills alike) to attain work.

The mirror-like quality of the staffing industry even extends to the broad realm of technology.

Jackie Fallon, president of Springfield-based FIT Staffing, which specializes in finding IT personnel for clients large and small, said a growing number of clients want and often desperately need individuals to collect and mine data, keep their systems safe from hackers, and enable computers (and therefore people) to continue working.

But in addition to now knowing how to find and evaluate good candidates (one big reason FIT is extremely busy these days), they are often surprised by and put off by the sticker price of such qualified individuals. They often want help at lower wages than what the market is often dictating, thereby adding a degree of difficulty to the search process.

“Think about a small manufacturer,” said Fallon while offering an example of what she’s running into. “Someone running a plant doesn’t want to pay an IT guy more than he or she is paying the plant manager. But that’s what the market is like out there; that’s what people are getting, and it’s creating challenges for companies.”

For this issue and its focus on employment, BusinessWest talked at length with several staffing-agency executives about what they’re seeing, hearing, and doing, and how all of that reflects the bigger picture that is the region’s economy.

Getting the Job Done

Hill-Cataldo was asked about how challenging it is to meet the needs of various clients and whether she was, in fact, able to keep up with demand. And with her answer, she probably spoke for not only everyone in her specific sector, but almost every business owner in Western Mass.

“It’s much more challenging to find qualified candidates than it probably ever has been, and I’ve been doing it for 25 years,” she explained. “We’ve never had to work this hard to get the right people; we’re getting them, but we’re just putting tremendous amounts of resources into doing that, and more hours. We have to work very hard.”

Jackie Fallon

Jackie Fallon says the need for data and security specialists continues to soar, making her company extremely busy.

Brown and Fallon used similar language, by and large, and collectively, their words speak volumes about the employment situation and this particular cycle that the region and its staffing agencies find themselves in.

And like all businesses, staffing firms see life change considerably with those cycles.

When times are worse, or much worse, as they were during and just after the Great Recession a decade ago, there are large numbers of skilled people looking for work. The problem is, there isn’t much of it to be had as companies, out of necessity, make do with fewer bodies.

During such cycles, more hiring is done on both a temporary and temp-to-hire basis (providing some work for agencies) because companies generally lack the confidence to bring people on permanently.

When times are better, of course, the situation is reversed. There are more positions to fill as companies staff back up, but fewer qualified individuals to fill them. There are still large amounts of temp-to-hire work because companies generally want to try before they buy (and with good reason), but also considerably more permanent hiring, hence Johnson & Hill’s Perm Division.

If it sounds like there are no easy times for staffing agencies, that’s about how it is, although these would obviously be considered better times, or even, for some, the best of times.

“Technology is always in high demand because everyone needs it,” said Fallon. “We’re really busy; we had our best year ever last year, and this year, we’re continuing that trend.”

Both United and Johnson & Hill are also having a very solid year, continuing a recent run of them, and for a variety of reasons that have to do with the economy and a changing environment when it comes to the process of hiring.

Elaborating, Hill said busy managers often lack the time to recruit and interview candidates. Meanwhile, others aren’t fully up on the methods required to reach younger audiences and assemble a strong pool of candidates. Thus, they’re leaving it to the experts.

“The way companies recruit now has become so complex that, if you don’t need to hire on a large scale, you don’t have the time to invest in social-media campaigns and all the things you need to do to build that pipeline of people coming into your organization,” she explained. “That’s what we do all day; we’re building a pipeline of people for the positions we need to fill. That makes it cost-effective for us, and far less so for small companies that can just offload the whole process.”

Brown agreed, and said this helps explain why United’s Professional Division, as it’s called, is quite busy. But there are other factors, and they include the fact that, in most all respects, the market has shifted in favor of the employees and job seekers, who, like employers, have large amounts of confidence.

“With this economy, there are opportunities,” she explained. “People aren’t fearful about moving from one company to another, whether they want to enhance their skill set to get ready for the next step or relocate, or just earn more money.”

Meanwhile, larger numbers of Baby Boomers are making the decision to retire, leaving companies with the often-challenging task of replacing long-time, valued employees.

Pipeline Projects

In this environment, where agencies have to commit more time, energy, and financial resources to the task of creating solid matches (that’s the operative word in this industry), staffing work requires persistence, resourcefulness, imagination, and often working with partners to help individuals gain the skills needed to enter the workplace and succeed there.

“Before, it might take a few days to find someone; now, it might take a few weeks,” said Hill-Cataldo, as she addressed that persistence part of the equation. “Searches are more difficult and time-consuming.”

Jennifer Brown

Jennifer Brown says the key to making successful matches is to fully understand a company’s culture, and finding individuals who can thrive in that environment.

Brown agreed, but stressed that, while the work is harder and it takes longer, there can be no shortcuts, because a firm can only succeed in this business if client needs are met — that is, if successful matches can be made.

And one key to accomplishing this is understanding not only a firm’s needs, but its culture, and then essentially working in partnership with the client to create what all parties concerned would consider a proverbial good hire.

“We need to make sure that the candidate we’re seeking aligns with what the client is looking to fulfill with the position,” Brown told BusinessWest, adding that this often goes beyond expected technical skill sets and into the realms of teamwork and company culture.

And with both sides of that equation, United is devoting time and resources to many forms of workforce development to help provide candidates with needed skills, she said.

As an example, she said the firm works with Goodwill Industries to present a training program to assist individuals with acquiring the essential skills to succeed in the workplace today.

“We need to make sure that the candidate’s character aligns with what the company is looking for, but also their competency as well,” she explained, adding that this is both an art and a science.

All of these traits are also needed within the broad spectrum of technology, said Fallon, adding that this has proven to be a lucrative, yet still challenging niche for the agency because, as she noted, technology is a critical component in every company’s success quotient, and also because the needs within this realm continue to grow.

This is especially true on the data side of the equation, as evidenced by growing use of the acronym DBA, which still stands for ‘doing business as,’ but increasingly, it also stands for ‘database administrator.’

“These are individuals in high demand,” said Fallon. “Data is a company’s goldmine; they need to protect it, and they need to make sure it’s running smoothly.”

Likewise, system security specialists are in equally high demand, said Fallon, adding that such professionals can and usually do demand a six-figure salary, a number that causes sticker shock in this region, which further complicates that aforementioned process of creating solid matches for both temp-to-hire and, increasingly, permanent-hire scenarios.

Matters are even further complicated by the fact that, increasingly, IT specialists can work remotely, which makes competition for them regional if not national or even international in scope.

“Someone can live here, work for a company in Boston, and maybe go into Boston once a week or maybe even less,” she explained, adding that firms in urban areas not only understand this, but they are generally less intimidated by the salaries such individuals are commanding.

The lesson companies can take from this is to be flexible and, when possible, allow people to work remotely, said Fallon, adding that, for various reasons, including an unwillingness, or inability, to meet those six-figure salaries, FIT has to cast an extremely wide net in its efforts to make matches.

“It’s easier for us to find someone from the Midwest to come here than it is someone from Boston — unless they were originally from this area,” she explained. “There’s more opportunity in Boston and places like it; if something doesn’t work out, they can walk down the street and find something else.”

Body of Work

While there are opportunities for staffing agencies during virtually all economic cycles, it is times like these when firms are particularly busy and when, like FIT, they are likely to record that proverbial ‘best year ever.’

But, as Hill-Cataldo noted, the rewards don’t come easy, and firms like hers must work harder than ever to not only meet the needs of clients, but exceed them.

In this respect, and many others, the staffing industry is reflecting the bigger picture and the economy of this region.

In other words, it’s a work in progress — in all kinds of ways.

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

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, in partnership with Springfield Technical Community College and Training & Workforce Options, are piloting a Metrology & CNC Foundations training program.

This eight-week, 160-hour, advanced-manufacturing training program, which started on Sept. 25, is training 12 laid-off workers in manufacturing skills in quality control utilizing micrometers, calipers, and coordinate measurement machinery. In addition, trainees will receive training in blueprint reading, shop mathematics, ISO 9001 and AS9100 quality systems, and basic CNC setup and operations.

The goal of this program is to provide the trainees with manufacturing skills that are in high demand with manufacturing employers and to place them in into on-the-job training opportunities. Future programs will be based on employer response to this pilot training program.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Massachusetts brand-strategy firm Six-Point Creative Works has acquired van Schouwen Associates, a Longmeadow-based marketing firm that specializes in business-to-business marketing. The acquisition, which took effect Oct. 2, was announced jointly by the two companies on Oct. 17.

The purchase is a step toward meeting Six-Point goals for strategic growth and diversification, said Six-Point President and CEO Meghan Lynch. “This is the first of several upcoming announcements, and it comes just a month shy of our company’s 10th anniversary.”

She added that “this has been a very positive and beneficial move for everyone involved. It’s been a pleasure over the last few weeks to meet and welcome so many growth-minded clients making the transition to Six-Point.”

Michelle van Schouwen, who founded van Schouwen Associates in 1985, will remain involved as a strategic marketing consultant during the transition. “I have a number of personal projects I would like to move on to, and I’m happy to have a path for those,” she said. “But I also have a roster of long-time, loyal clients whose businesses are important to me. I’m working closely with Six-Point to help them onboard both clients and staff and will continue to be available as needed.”

van Schouwen’s Longmeadow office has closed, she confirmed, and two key staff members have made the transition to Six-Point’s downtown Springfield office. Lynne Turner, who was with van Schouwen for 17 years, has joined Six-Point as Operations manager. Tyler Leahy will continue to serve as a client advocate and copywriter for former van Schouwen accounts.

“We’re excited to have Lynne and Tyler on board to provide additional expertise to our clients. They both exemplify our Six-Point values and bring even more depth to our already accomplished team,” said Lynch.

After 32 years in business, van Schouwen said, “this is a bittersweet moment for me, but it’s also a happy outcome. Six-Point is one of the region’s smartest and most successful agencies, and will be a very good fit for the companies van Schouwen Associates has been serving.”

Six-Point is owned by Lynch, Chief Creative Officer David Wicks, and Chief Marketing Officer Marsha Montori. The company’s current clients include Hyde Group, Farm Credit East, Hot Table, CHD, United Personnel, Detector Technology, Incom, Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, Springfield Public Forum, and Ingersoll Products of Ontario, Canada. The van Schouwen client roster has included manufacturing and industrial firms in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island, and California, many of whom serve global markets.

While the van Schouwen website and phone number continue to be active, the van Schouwen name will be phased out in favor of one unified brand, said Lynch. Six-Point offices are located at 9 Hampden St. in Springfield.

Court Dockets Departments

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

CHICOPEE DISTRICT COURT

Donald Kendal v. Home Depot USA Inc. and Electric Eel Manufacturing Co.

Allegation: Personal injury: $9,092.37

Filed: 9/15/17

FRANKLIN SUPERIOR COURT

Jess Douglas v. Monahan Trucking, LLC

Allegation: Failure to pay prevailing wage: $90,000

Filed: 8/9/17

HAMPDEN DISTRICT COURT

Steven Kinsley v. Dave’s Sheet Metal Inc.

Allegation: Motor-vehicle negligence causing injury: $6,488.13

Filed: 9/6/17

Insignia Inc. d/b/a The Sign Center v. Universal Wilde Inc.

Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered: $10,436.48

Filed: 9/15/17

American Builders and Contractors Supply Co. Inc. d/b/a ABC Supply Co. Inc. v. Brian E. Drenen d/b/a Southwick Builders

Allegation: Money owed for goods sold and delivered, unjust enrichment, breach of credit documents: $7,183.76

Filed: 9/15/17

HAMPDEN SUPERIOR COURT

Fanony Montoya-Plavan and Caleb Plavan v. Allegra Daniela Deucher, M.D.; Alice M. Shin, M.D.; and Olivia H. Chang, M.D.

Allegation: Medical malpractice: $231,000

Filed: 9/7/17

Brenda Morales v. City of Springfield

Allegation: Motor-vehicle negligence causing injury: $29,941

Filed: 9/12/17

67 Market Street, LLC v. Service Experts of the Berkshires, LLC; Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning – Massachusetts, LLC; and Berkshire Air Conditioning, LLC

Allegation: Money owed for services, labor, and materials: $225,000

Filed: 9/14/17

N.L. Construction Inc. v. DevelopSpringfield Corp. and 276 Bridge Street, LLC

Allegation: Money owed for services, labor, and materials: $253,894

Filed: 9/14/17

HAMPSHIRE DISTRICT COURT

Cornetta A. Young v. Realty Resources Chartered, LLC and Nash Hill Place

Allegation: Slip and fall causing injury: $6,995

Filed: 9/8/17

PALMER DISTRICT COURT

Shafiis’ Inc. d/b/a TigerPress v. Jamie Jordan d/b/a Stone Age Advertising and d/b/a Ad-Advantage and d/b/a Big Coaster

Allegation: Money owed for services: $10,973.82

Filed: 9/6/17

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

 

Mayor Brian Sullivan

Mayor Brian Sullivan says his coffee hours with business owners and managers, a chamber of commerce initiative, have been eye-opening and extremely productive.

By the middle of 2018, Dan Howard says, close to 75% of Westfield residents and businesses will have access to high-speed Internet through Whip City Fiber, a division of Westfield Gas + Electric.

“The Municipal Light Board is fully behind it, as is the City Council,” said Howard, general manager of WG+E, adding that the city began funding the project back in 2014. “It’s a great collaboration that has really benefited the entire city.”

He noted that of the 41 municipal electric utilities in Massachusetts, only four are gas-and-electric entities, and only one of those four, once Westfield’s project goes online, will also provide high-speed Internet. The city will join communities like Wilson, N.C., Chattanooga, Tenn., and Longmont, Colo., as ‘gigacities,’ and will be able to showcase that fact in its marketing efforts to draw more business to town.

“You don’t have to be big manufacturer or a warehouse facility; we’re also providing access to small, upstart entrepreneurs,” he said. “People can work out of their homes and get the Internet access they need. This provides hefty benefits to communities and has proven to be an economic boost.”

Although it’s perhaps the most literal example, Whip City Fiber is just one way Westfield is making connections — between its municipal leadership, business community, residents, and educational facilities.

Take, for example, the Westfield Education to Business Alliance, which connects the city’s schools, where students are beginning to contemplate their career paths, with companies that are eager to mine local talent.

“That has gone over like gangbusters,” said Kate Phelon, executive director of the Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce, explaining that it began last year with 15 core members and now regularly draws participation from 40 to 45 businesses.

“It’s all about workforce-development issues,” she told BusinessWest. “We’re bringing education to businesses and businesses to education. The response has been fabulous. It’s a great collaboration.”

For example, a career fair at Westfield High School in June attracted some 45 businesses, interacting with 600 students who gained exposure to the types of career opportunities available at local companies — and, more important, what skill sets they will need to take advantage of them.

That’s not all; Westfield businesses have visited elementary schools as well, and in two weeks, the collaborative will present a career fair for some 120 teachers, who will meet with local businesses and hear about their workforce challenges, with an eye toward modifying curriculum to prepare students for jobs in the regional economy.

Meanwhile, Westfield State University’s Pathways to Excellence program allows high-school students to graduate with up to nine college credits, while exposing them to career options they can think about before taking the leap to college.

“We’re working together on the future workforce, whether students choose the college path or the work path,” Phelon said. “It’s been phenomenal.”

Westfield at a glance

YEAR INCORPORATED: 1669
POPULATION: 41,094 (2010)
AREA: 47.4 square miles
COUNTY: Hampden
RESIDENTIAL TAX RATE: $19.42
COMMERCIAL TAX RATE: $37.08
MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME: $45,240
MEDIAN FAMILY INCOME: $55,327
TYPE OF GOVERNMENT: Mayor, City Council
LARGEST EMPLOYERS: Westfield State University, Baystate Noble Hospital, Savage Arms Inc., Mestek Inc., Advance Manufacturing Co.

* Latest information available

Meanwhile, the Mayor’s Coffee Hour, a chamber initiative launched several years ago, still draws some 30 to 40 attendees each month to a different host business, where Mayor Brian Sullivan takes questions on the state of various economic-development initiatives in the city.

“Some of these businesses have never been visited by local government,” Sullivan said. “We talk about what they need, how can we help — and it has been really productive. They might let us know they have jobs open, but find the talent, and we can hook them into other people we know, and the connections Kate has.”

Taken as a whole, these initiatives and others speak to a growing sense that Westfield aims to grow through open communication and productive connections. And those efforts are certainly bearing fruit.

Higher Gear

Over the past few years, Westfield residents have been able to see some long-percolating developments blossom, most notably the $6.6 million Olver Transit Pavilion, which opened in April as the centerpiece of a planned downtown resurgence. The Westfield Redevelopment Authority also recently demolished a former bowling alley near the transit center, with plans to create a multi-story, mixed-use building with retail, restaurants, office space, and market-rate apartments.

Those projects are just two facets of the Elm Street Urban Renewal Plan approved in 2013, which focuses on revitalizing 4.88 acres in a two-block area in the heart of downtown Westfield running along both sides of Elm Street, the city’s main commercial thoroughfare. The city has also directed funding to revitalize the so-called Gaslight District adjacent to it.

The transit center was designed to both catalyze related economic development and increase the use of public transportation. The state-of-the-art center includes parking space for four buses with bicycle racks, as well as a bicycle-repair station, which speaks to the proximity of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail only a block away.

The trail, which spans three and a half miles and crosses seven bridges in the city, isn’t yet complete, Phelon said, but will eventually be yet another destination drawing people to the Whip City.

Mayor Brian Sullivan, Kate Phelon, and Dan Howard

Mayor Brian Sullivan, Kate Phelon, and Dan Howard say collaborations between Westfield’s municipal leaders, businesses, and schools have reaped benefits for the city.

“In a few years, it will be an economic engine in the city,” she told BusinessWest. “People from will come to this rail trail because it’s elevated and extends all the way down to New Haven. I’m already getting calls about where people can park overnight and bike down to Connecticut.”

Economic development has taken other forms as well. Westfield opened a $6 million solar farm on Russell Road last year, featuring 8,864 solar panels capable of producing 3 megawatts of power that will be consumed by the community. Meanwhile, the city continues to develop a second industrial park on city-owned land adjacent to Barnes Regional Airport.

Sullivan said Westfield already offers a number of advantages to businesses considering locating there, from plenty of available land to easy access to Interstates 90 and 91, rail service, and Barnes, to a permitting system that gets all players, from planners to the DPW to the WG+E, into the same room to ease the path to approval.

“That has been successful. There’s no sense in having a meeting to set up a meeting to talk about another meeting. Here, it’s a one-stop shop.”

But he also takes a regional approach to economic development, maintaining relationships with area mayors and the Economic Development Council of Western Mass. “We’re on the the same page, because we’re only as good as our neighbors are doing.”

And Westfield is doing well, he added, noting that city-wide high-speed Internet is just one more catalyst to transform the Whip City from a warehousing and manufacturing center to a location that’s amenable to businesses of all kinds, large and small.

“We have a tremendous asset in this municipal utility,” Howard said, “but instead of everyone doing their own thing, the mayor and I and Kate get together to promote the synergies we have.”

Local Impact

Chambers of commerce are, by their nature, about economic development and helping their communities grow, Phelon said. The Greater Westfield Chamber continues to do so by way of programs such as a buy-local initiative that encourages businesses in the city to make purchases from other Westfield businesses instead of looking outside the area, or online, for suppliers.

“We worry about the future of retail; no matter what you buy, online shopping is hitting Main Street, USA hard,” she said. “We’re trying to counteract that; we’re asking, ‘why don’t you consider a chamber member? You might find something you didn’t even know was available here.’ We’re excited about this. Instead of going online, maybe spend an extra dollar or two here, and make an impact locally. We really want to push this hard.”

It comes down to communication, Sullivan said, and the various entities that make a community run smoothly — from City Hall to the schools system to the business ecosystem — understanding each other’s needs and challenges.

Even last spring’s Earth Day cleanup of trash on Servistar Industrial Road qualifies, the mayor said, adding that it was a volunteer effort spurred by people getting together to talk about a problem. “It’s simple,” he said, “but if you don’t know about it, you can’t do anything about it.”

In Westfield, though, word gets around. And, thanks to a certain fiber project, it’s about to get around even faster.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Construction Sections

Green Goals

Thanks in part to the U.N.’s “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” ‘green’ building projects are increasing worldwide. From 2015 to 2018, the percentage of global builders with at least 60% of their projects certified green will double, according to the “World Green Building Trends” report.

One of the main motivations driving green construction is to reduce carbon emissions, reports Interesting Engineering. And successful ways to do that revolve around energy usage — namely, to decrease energy consumption and increase energy efficiency in homes and buildings around the world.

Here’s how those goals break down into the top five global green-building trends this year.

Solar Panels of All Sizes

The worldwide acceptance of solar as the energy of the future is causing solar technology to get better and cheaper — quickly.

In 2016, India set aside $3 billion in state funding to ensure its capacity for solar power reaches 100 gigawatts by 2022. In May, the United Kingdom generated nearly one-quarter of its power needs from solar panels. And China is currently in the middle of creating the largest solar-thermal farm in the world.

Huge, heavy panels with bulky grids are no longer the only options for a solar-roof install. In the U.S., Tesla has already rolled out its new solar shingles, while Forward Labs’ standing seam metal solar roofing is set to be released in 2018.

In Australia, Professor Paul Dastoor of the University of Newcastle is performing the final trials on lightweight solar panels made by printing electronic ink onto plastic sheets. These solar panels are cheap to produce and ship and could potentially be a game changer for the solar-panel industry.

Home Energy Storage

“Batteries capable of storing power at utility scale will be as widespread in 12 years as rooftop solar panels are now,” estimates Bloomberg New Energy Finance. And that makes sense, considering the same type of lithium-ion battery used to power an electric vehicle can also be used to store power in the home. This double demand enables manufacturers to increase battery production, which drives down prices. And lower prices mean home batteries will be within reach of more people.

Some major players have already jumped in on the home-battery-manufacturing opportunity. Mercedes-Benz has produced suitcase-sized at-home energy storage for Germany since 2015, but it plans to expand internationally and has recently made the product available to California residents in the U.S. Meanwhile, Powervault is the number-one at-home battery manufacturer in the UK, and ElectrIQ is one of the newest home-energy-storage manufacturers in the U.S., with a home battery that stores 10 kWh of energy.

Energy-management Systems

To get the most out of solar panels and batteries, energy-management systems (EMSs) are often installed in green homes and businesses. EMSs monitor how much energy a building uses and can automate lighting, power, and HVAC systems to ensure optimal energy savings.

For example, the Edge, a building in Amsterdam that won the BREEAM award for offices in 2016, has 30,000 sensors that connect to a smartphone app. This app collects data from office employees and adjusts temperature and lighting according to how many people are inside the building and even keeps track of individual employee’s air and lighting preferences.

Another example is Honda’s smart home in the U.S., which has an experimental home EMS that communicates with the electrical grid to create optimal energy performance.

Passive Building Design

Passive building designs help minimize energy consumption by reducing the need for electrical lighting and temperature control in the first place. How? By using advanced design techniques that allow for maximum amounts of natural daylight to come in, while restricting heat loss in the winter and reducing heat gain in the summer.

And one element of passive design that has a big impact in temperature control is what goes on the roof.

Green roofs play an important part in helping regulate the temperature inside and outside of many passive buildings and homes. The plants and soil systems put in place help insulate the building in the winter and shade it in the summer.

Sustainable Building Materials

Reclaimed wood and recycled materials are high on the list of sustainable building supplies. But there’s also a lot of innovation happening in the world of eco-friendly concrete.

Why is making concrete green so important? Because it’s the world’s most used construction material, and it’s responsible for producing copious amounts of CO2.

There are several concrete alternatives, such as AshCrete, Ferrock, and HempCrete — but the most recent buzz is self-healing concrete. This concrete is supplemented with bacteria that, when exposed to moisture, will become active and grow limestone that will fill any cracks that happen over time. This is a big deal since no added concrete is needed to maintain it.

Luckily for us, this worldwide trend of creating green building solutions will grow along with the burgeoning demand for better ways to sustain our planet.

Maybe soon, the term ‘green building’ won’t be needed because all building practices will be sustainable.

This article first appeared in Proud Green Building.

Departments Incorporations

The following business incorporations were recorded in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties and are the latest available. They are listed by community.

ADAMS

B&B Micro Manufacturing Inc., 387 Old Columbia St., Adams, MA 01220. Mitchell Bresett, 62 Maple St., Adams, MA 01220. Construction.

CHICOPEE

Chicopee Comp Friends of Football Inc., 617 Montgomery St. # 1, Chicopee, MA 01020. Paul Parks, 88 Rolf Ave., Chicopee, MA 01020. The purpose of the Chicopee Comp Friends of Football, Inc. is to support the student athletes, parents, staff, and coaches of the football team by raising funds, recruiting volunteers, and conducting events.

GOSHEN

Ce & Apa Inc., 9 Lilly Pond Lane, Goshen, MA 01032. Charles Amo, same. Construction.

GREENFIELD

Blackwind Solutions Inc, 12 Vernon St., Greenfield, MA 01301. Nicole Nelson, same. Consulting.

HOLYOKE

Beyond Remodeling Inc, 3 Overlook Road, Holyoke, MA 01040. ANA Carolina De Alba-Sabino, same. Interior decorator.

PALMER

Beaver Stump Grinding Inc., 21 Wilbraham St., Palmer, MA 01069. Jason P. Keegan, 1126 Glendale St. Wilbraham, MA 01095. Stump grinding and removal, landscape restorations.

PITTSFIELD

Berkshire Theatre Critics Association Inc., 20 Alfred Dr., Pittsfield, MA 01201. Peter Jay Bergman, same. Non-profit organization designed to honor and award for excellence in regional theatre; to encourage participation in Berkshire region arts.

SOUTH HADLEY

Always Reliable Excavating Inc., 35 Fairlawn St., South Hadley, MA 01075. Steven M. Menard, 47 North Main St., South Hadley, MA 01075. Construction and excavating contractor.

SPRINGFIELD

Chayle Inc., 53 Andrew St., Springfield, MA 01109. Dennis Gayle, same. Regulated and licensed retail sales of marijuana.

WEST SPRINGFIELD

Agawam Lions Foundation Inc., 1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield, MA 01089. Robert Germano, 13 Maple St., Agawam MA 01001. Local chapter of a worldwide organization that puts on functions for the community to raise money for the local Agawam Lions Club.

American All State Transport Inc., 1072 Piper Road, West Springfield, MA 01089. Ilyaz Agayev, same. Long distance trucking.

AJM Tours Inc., 425 Union St., West Springfield, MA 01089. Andrew Cecil Francis, same. Passenger transportation.

Briefcase Departments

Pathlight, VVM Seek Innovations to Benefit People with Disabilities

SPRINGFIELD — Applications are now open for the second year of the Pathlight Challenge, Pathlight’s partnership with Valley Venture Mentors (VVM). The two organizations have put out a national call to entrepreneurs to develop solutions aimed at increasing independence for people with intellectual disabilities and those with autism. Pathlight, headquartered in Springfield, has served people with developmental and intellectual disabilities throughout Western Mass. since 1952, while VVM offers support to business startups. The Pathlight Challenge is supported by a grant from the Westfield Bank Future Fund. Startups from anywhere in the world are invited to apply for two spots in VVM’s prestigious, intensive, four-month Accelerator program, which kicks off in January. Pathlight Executive Director Ruth Banta said that the partnership with Valley Venture Mentors highlights the organization’s long-standing history of innovation. Pathlight has been a pioneer in partnering with people with developmental disabilities and autism to live full and engaged lives. She said it seems a natural next step to consider how technology or other innovative solutions can help a new generation of people with disabilities live as independently as possible. The Accelerator program is held over one long weekend a month, offering startups connections to subject-matter experts, investors, and engaged and collaborative peers. Those competing in the program can win up to $50,000 in grants to develop their business or product. Applications for the Accelerator are open through Wednesday, Oct. 18. The Pathlight fellows will graduate from the Accelerator program in May, when they will also unveil their new products or services. For more information or to apply for the Pathlight Challenge, visit pathlightgroup.org/our-community/pathlight-challenge.

Massachusetts Adds 10,800 Jobs in August

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 4.2% in  August, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate that Massachusetts added 10,800 jobs in August. Over the month, the private sector added 9,900 jobs as gains occurred in professional, scientific, and business services; other services; information; construction; and manufacturing. The July estimate was revised to a gain of 2,500 jobs. From August 2016 to August 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 57,400 jobs. The August unemployment rate was two-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 4.4% reported by the bureau. “Massachusetts has gained 57,400 jobs in the last year, with much of that growth concentrated in key economic sectors like health, education, professional, business, and scientific services,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta. “While these job gains, alongside a low unemployment rate, are signs of a strong economy in the Commonwealth, skills gaps and labor-market pressures persist. That is why our workforce-development agencies and partners continue to focus on matching available workers with the training and resources they need to connect to high-demand jobs.” The labor force decreased by 17,200 from 3,697,700 in July, as 10,700 fewer residents were employed and 6,500 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased eight-tenths of a percentage point from 3.4% in August 2016. There were 31,300 more unemployed residents over the year compared to August 2016. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased three-tenths of a percentage point to 66.1% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has increased 1.3% compared to August 2016. The largest private sector percentage job gains over the year were in other services; professional, scientific, and business services; education and health services; and financial activities.

State Campaign to Help Parents Protect Kids from Opioid Misuse

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) recently launched a new, statewide public-information campaign to raise awareness among parents about what they can do to protect their middle- and high-school-aged kids from prescription-drug misuse and addiction. “Parents play an important role in protecting their kids from opioid and substance misuse, and our administration is supporting another tool to begin that conversation and to keep talking — because kids will listen,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “This public-information campaign adds to our strong foundation of prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery in ending the opioid crisis that has impacted too many families throughout the Commonwealth.” The prevention campaign, launched with funding from the DPH Bureau of Substance Addiction Services, is titled “Stop Addiction Before It Starts,” and encourages parents to talk early and often with their children about the dangers of misusing prescription pain medications. Four out of five people who use heroin began by misusing prescription pain medications, and one in four teens report they’ve misused or abused a prescription drug at least once. According to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, kids whose parents talked with them about prescription pain medications were 42% less likely to misuse these drugs than those whose parents didn’t. The campaign will appear across the state on TV and on digital and paid social-media platforms. Viewers will be directed to mass.gov/stopaddiction for additional information about the importance of talking with teens about opioid misuse, tips on how to start the conversation, further information about opioids including the safe disposal of unused prescription pain pills, and resources for treatment and recovery.

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

Mike Vezzola

Mike Vezzola says Enfield has cultivated a diverse economic landscape, with retail, manufacturing, and warehousing and distribution all playing key roles.

Commuters whisking past Enfield, Conn. on I-91 — especially exits 47E and 48, which drain into the heavily trafficked corridors of Routes 220 and 190, peppered with shopping centers and fast-casual restaurants — no doubt see the stretch as a retail mecca, but a closer look casts doubt.

Take the Enfield Square Mall, for instance, which has been heavily buffeted by store departures and doesn’t draw nearly the traffic it used to.

“From a retail perspective, yes, we lost some of the anchor stores of the mall — Macy’s, Sears — but I know there has been some interest from new stores to go into the mall,” said Mike Vezzola, executive director of the North Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, noting, as one example, a new Party City on the property, one of the biggest among the chain’s New England stores.

“I spoke to the folks at the mall last week, and we’re starting to see the retail aspect rebound a little bit,” he went on. “But it’s definitely more of a mixed bag. Ten years ago, we were looking at Enfield as the retail hub between Springfield and Hartford. I feel that’s shifted to Manchester. Instead, we’re now an all-inclusive package drawing from all aspects of economic development.”

Take, for instance, a strong uptick in small and sole-proprietor businesses coming online in the past year, reflective of an entrepreneurial wave that has been noticeable in Western Mass. as well. Or a wave of warehousing and distribution companies that have set up shop in Enfield over the past year or two.

Enfield Square Mall

Enfield Square Mall

“It’s a combination of a few things,” Vezzola said, noting that the manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution niches have been bolstered by the likes of Veritiv, Plastipak, and Conval all moving into Enfield in the past year. “We’ve also seen a lot of interest from property managers and developers who have been purchasing open lots here in town, with intentions of perhaps bringing more distribution and manufacturing businesses into the area.”

Recognizing an opportunity to create a pipline of local talent for such companies, Asnuntuck Community College unveiled its new, 27,000-square-foot Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center in the spring, part of an overall $25 million campus expansion plan. The new space will allow Asnuntuck to double its enrollment in its undergraduate manufacturing-technology programs. Meanwhile, the college is extending its tuition rate for Connecticut residents to students from Massachusetts. All these moves are aimed at bolstering what is becoming a key part of Enfield’s — and, perhaps, the region’s — economy.

Enfield, Conn. at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1683 in Massachusetts; annexed to Connecticut in 1749
Population: 44,654 (2010)
Area: 34.2 square miles
County: Hartford
Residential Tax Rate: $31.43 (plus fire district tax)
Commercial Tax Rate: $31.43 (plus fire district tax)
Median Household Income: $67,402
Median Family Income: $77,554
Type of Government: Town Council, Town Manager
Largest Employers: MassMutual, Retail Brand Alliance, Lego Systems
* Latest information available

“Within the past year, the state has given much support to Asnuntuck to focus on advanced manufacturing and programs that are more of a specific niche in terms of a career path,” Vezzola told BusinessWest. “The expansion of that school has been phenomenal, everything from the infrastructure to the subtleties like offering in-state tuition prices to Massachusetts residents.”

Other developments have local officials equally excited about Enfield’s position, from a planned transit center in the Thompsonville section of town to MGM Springfield’s opening in 2018 and, perhaps, a second casino just to the south in East Windsor.

“If anything, I think Enfield is going to be more appealing over the next five years with the institution of a new commercial rail system and the casinos going up,” Vezzola said. “I can see Enfield really being the middle-ground tourist attraction, the alternative place to stay between those two points of interest.”

All Aboard

As for that railroad, service on a New Haven-to-Springfield line should be up and running in the spring of 2018. Enfield — specifically, its Thompsonville neighborhood on the Connecticut River — is one of the proposed stops along that line, although the station won’t be up and running immediately. Nor will it be built in a vacuum, as the town has been planning a transformation of the future station site into an intermodal transit center in a walker-friendly village.

“It’s a rather large and complicated project,” said Peter Bryanton, the town’s director of Community Development, adding that the sticking point has been a former power-plant site that sits on the river. “That site is owned by Eversource, and we started negotiating with Eversource about five years ago to go on the property and do environmental testing, because we need to know what kind of contaminants are there before we can do anything. We’re now at the point where we have an access agreement with them, and we’re in the process of getting a firm to do the work for us.”

Depending on the results of that survey, if the site needs to be remediated or capped, the transit-center could be looking at a three- to five-year timeline. In the meantime, the state will build a basic rail station, with an elevated, double-tracked platform on each side. Later on, the town will build in some parking, bus facilities, and outdoor recreation, such as walking trails and overlook areas so people can enjoy the view of the river.

“Hopefully the commuter-rail system revives some of the walkability in town,” Vezzola added. “The service will start running in 2018 — we’re the only stop on the Connecticut River itself — and the Thompsonville project will be greatly affected by that once it’s instituted. We really want to take the train station and make a livable, walkable atmosphere, with restaurants and retail shops from the train station all the way up to Town Hall, all the way up Main Street. It all kind of works together.”

There isn’t room for a lot of retail at the site, Bryanton said, but one four-story commercial building, acquired by the Enfield Community Development Corp., will feature some ground-level retail and housing on the upper floors.

“We’ve gone through the conceptual phase, and we’re now in the construction planning phase,” he noted. “The rail-station plans are almost completed — the state is working on that — and with our environmental work, we can move on our construction plans for the infrastructure around the rail station.”

Sure Bet

Vezzola noted that the chamber’s role is to foster economic growth and development in the four towns it represents. “We’re here as a supporter of local commerce and want to be a driving force behind keeping our region an appealing, attractive place to grow your business.”

That’s why he’s cheered by some of the initiatives taking shape in and around Enfield, from workforce-development progress to the future transit center to a pair of casinos, although the East Windsor, while approved by the Connecticut Legislature, isn’t quite a done deal.

“I think Springfield is a sure bet, and that is most certainly going to help tourism in this particular area,” he said. “We have plenty of restaurants in Enfield, the Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn hotels in Enfield will be pretty much occupied, and it’s only going to be bigger if the East Windsor casino comes to fruition as well, because we’re right in the middle. We’re not a 45-minute commute, like coming from Northampton or West Hartford; we’re your driveable destination.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Cover Story Manufacturing Sections

A New Spin

Vince Simonds

Vince Simonds stands by the Truvis V machine with one of the products of the same name.

Over the past century or so, golf balls — and golf-ball history — have been made in Chicopee. Indeed, the sprawling plant on Meadow Street that once bore the name ‘Spalding’ and now ‘Callaway’ has been home to a number of innovations and new products. In recent years, though, that tradition — not to mention the number of workers at the plant — has been in decline. However, a new and exciting golf-ball design is changing the landscape, in all kinds of ways.

They’re calling it the Truvis V.

That’s the name given to a large, sophisticated piece of machinery recently installed at the sprawling Callaway plant in Chicopee. It was built to carefully place the 12 pentagons that have become the distinctive design pattern for the Truvis golf ball, as well as the Callaway name and the player number, all in accordance with USGA rules and regulations.

This machine is cutting-edge when it comes to such work, said Vince Simonds, senior director of Global Golf Ball Operations for Callaway, adding that it packs as much symbolism as it does science and technology.

Indeed, the Truvis V is perhaps the most visible evidence — except for perhaps the soccer-ball-like product the company has developed — of a compelling turnaround in the history of golf-ball manufacturing in Chicopee.

It’s a long history, to be sure, one that dates back to the late 1800s, but recent chapters have certainly not been as glorious. Decades ago, the talk about this plant was mostly reserved to the tens of millions of golf balls produced there annually. Lately, though, it’s been about the dwindling numbers of men and women working inside; decades ago, more than 1,000 people were employed at the plant, and only a few years ago that number dipped below the century mark.

It’s now at or near 200 and steadily climbing, and there were essentially two catalysts for that growth. The first was the arrival of Chip Brewer as the company’s president and CEO in 2012, a move that energized Callaway in many ways, Simonds noted. The second was the development of the Chrome Soft golf ball, or the “ball that changed the ball,” as the company says in its marketing materials.

This became the ball that essentially changed the fortunes of the Chicopee plant as well, Simonds went on, adding that the product has helped Callaway become the number-two ballmaker in the world (well behind the leader, Titleist), and it has also spurred those growing employment numbers in Chicopee.

The ‘Made in Chicopee’ banner at the Callaway plant

The ‘Made in Chicopee’ banner at the Callaway plant has new meaning these days.

And the Truvis model of the Chrome Soft is a very big part of this improved and still-changing picture.

It is still relatively new — it’s been on the market for a few years now — and no one on the PGA Tour is using it yet (more on that later), although Tom Watson is using it on the Champions Tour for players over age 50. But it is certainly catching on among amateurs.

As the name implies, the ball’s claim to fame is that is it is easier to see and enables players to focus better. The product has won some supporters among older players, said Dan Gomez, director of Golf Ball Supply Chain at the Chicopee operation, and among the younger clientele as well, who see is as a break from golf’s staid (some would say stuffy) image.

“It’s something new and different, and some would argue that’s just what’s needed in golf right now,” said Simonds.

The response has been so good that Callaway is having a hard time keeping up with demand. In fact, it isn’t keeping up.

“We’re capacity-constrained right now,”Gomez said with a laugh. “We’ve been sold out on this product for two years; everything we make goes right out — we can’t make enough of them.”

This development explains the Truvis V, but also the fact that space has cleared on the production floor for several more of these machines, and the company plans to add 30 to 40 more workers to operate them.

Indeed, Callaway is quite convinced that the strong interest in the Truvis ball does not represent a fad, like colored golf balls were when first introduced 40 years ago, but rather a business it can build on for years to come. And it is investing heavily in new equipment and plant reconfiguration.

It is also taking very necessary steps to ensure that it will have workers to staff those machines in the years to come. Like all manufacturers, Callaway is having a difficult time finding qualified help, and it is forging (that’s an industry term) relationships with area technical schools to help create a better pipeline.

Part of this relationship building involves tours — officials at Springfield Technical Community College recently visited, for example — designed to impress upon schools and the young people they educate that golf-ball making is alive and well in Chicopee.

And that’s something that really couldn’t have been said just a few years ago.

Round Numbers

Speaking of history, there is quite a bit of it on display, literally, in a row of cases in the hallway leading from the executive offices to the main production floor at the Callaway plant.

There’s more than two centuries of golf-ball technology and product developments behind the glass, including a reproduction of a ‘feathery,’ an 18th-century product that, as the name might suggest, was essentially leather-covered feathers. There’s also some gutta percha balls, or ‘gutties,’ as they were called — products used in the 1800s that were made from dried gum resin from guttiferous trees — as well as dozens of balls from the 20th and 21st centuries with the Spalding name on them, as well as those of several subsidiaries acquired over the years.

There’s even a ball that commemorates the historic moon shot, or moon golf shot, taken by Alan Shepard during the Apollo 14 mission in 1971. (Simonds said there is some ambiguity as to just which brand of ball Shepard used for his famous lunar 6-iron, but he signed a promotional deal with Spalding soon after his return from that mission.)

Dan Gomez, left, and Vince Simonds show off some of the Chrome Soft products that have changed the dynamic at the Chicopee plant.

Dan Gomez, left, and Vince Simonds show off some of the Chrome Soft products that have changed the dynamic at the Chicopee plant.

Further down the hall, there is another display case. Its top rows are currently populated with a number of variations on the Truvis theme — meaning a host of color schemes and a few speciality balls, such as one produced for Australian pro Mark Leishman that has the shape of Australia printed inside the pentagons.

There are rows of empty racks waiting to be filled, as well as the confidence that they will be — something that probably didn’t exist just a few years ago.

Indeed, as he talked about Callaway’s acquisition of Spalding’s assets, including the Chicopee plant, in 2003, Simonds said the ensuing years were certainly not what the leaders at that company hoped they would be.

The company’s consistently sluggish performance in the golf-ball business was coupled with the fact that it was overcapitalized — actually, way overcapitalized — especially with regard to the sprawling Chicopee plant, which was much too big for the company’s needs.

Out of necessity, Callaway downsized and rightsized, said Simonds, adding that it sold the Chicopee plant and is currently leasing back roughly 275,000 square feet, maybe one-quarter the footprint of the original facility.

The rightsizing coincided with Brewer’s arrival as president and CEO of the company and the introduction of new products, especially the Chrome Soft, which is essentially technology that enables lower-compression golf balls to perform as well as higher-compression balls years ago.

These developments led to a dramatic increase in market share — from just over 7% in 2013 to more than 14% at present — which has in turn fueled investments in new product development, and especially the Truvis.

Today, the company is making 200,000 to 250,000 balls a day, and the workforce has steadily grown over the past few years to roughly the 200 mark, about a 50% increase, with more hiring planned, primarily in response to the strong early performance of the Truvis.

“It’s been a phenomenal success,” said Simonds, adding quickly that the company has taken steps, patent-wise (from both a manufacturing and design standpoint), in efforts to protect itself from competitors developing something similar, something he believes they’ll try to do.

At present, there are black pentagons on yellow (popular with fans of the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Steelers) and red-on-white options in this country, and a blue-on-white model sold in Japan, he went on, adding that there have been a number of custom orders as well, including green on white for Dick’s Sporting Goods, white on pink for the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Mother’s Day, and red maple leaves to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Canada.

The response has been so strong — those balls shipped to Canada sold out quickly — that Callaway has mapped out an ambitious, three-year capital expansion plan to produce the balls.

The Truvis V, as noted, is merely the first of many that will be installed at the Chicopee plant.

And this is very specialized, and expensive, equipment.

“This is an involved process,” Simonds explained. “When you think about stamping such a large design on a spherical object … you have to distort the artwork so that it doesn’t look distorted on the ball. And we’ve developed some techniques to purposefully and mathematically distort the artwork so that, when it’s placed on the ball, it looks normal.”

Another challenge will be finding qualified individuals to operate these machines, he said, adding that this is why the company is reaching out to STCC and the technical high schools in the area, with the goal of establishing relationships and putting Callaway back on the radar screen for young people looking for career opportunities.

In the meantime, Callaway officials look forward to the day — and they predict it will come — when a PGA tour regular starts playing the Truvis, a development that would give the ball a huge boost in terms of both exposure and credibility.

“Most of the tour pros have them, and they use them for chipping and practicing,” Simonds explained. “But most PGA tour pros are too traditionalist to put those in play. But I think it will happen someday.”

Growth Patterns

There’s another item of interest on the shop floor to the administrative offices at the Callaway plant.

It’s a large banner hanging from a utility duct that features images of the Chrome Soft ball, with the Truvis product well-represented. Above those images, in large white letters, are the words ‘Made in Chicopee, MA.’

Such banners and such words have been seen at the plant for decades, obviously, but today, there is more meaning behind them, more optimism, and more promise, if you will.

A plant that has made a good deal of golf balls — and a great deal of golf-ball history — is entering a new era in which it will produce more of both.

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

Manufacturing Sections

Moving Experience

Company President Carol Campbell shows off new CIC’s new 40-60 Hoist.

Company President Carol Campbell shows off new CIC’s new 40-60 Hoist.

When Chicopee Industrial Contractors (CIC) officially marked a quarter-century in business a few months back, it did so with an elaborate open house at its headquarters in Chicopee.

This meant that a good number of those invited — especially a host of the company’s best customers — had to rely on their car’s navigation systems to get them to the ceremonies.

That’s because, for starters, they’d almost certainly never been there before — and also because this business is not exactly easy to find. Indeed, North Chicopee Street is a dead-end road in the northwest corner of the city, not far from Route 391. Meanwhile, the company’s facility is a somewhat non-descript building, with its claim to fame being that it housed Hampden Brewing Co., maker of Hampden Ale, decades ago.

Those customers, most all of them manufacturers — although there are some other sectors in the mix, including area municipalities — don’t come to CIC, because it comes to them, specializing, as it does, in rigging, heavy lifting, machinery moving, machine installation, millwrighting, machine repair, plant relocations, and more.

Once they found the place, open-house attendees could see that the company boasts a large inventory of equipment, space to store machinery for some customers, a training room where employees hone both technical and soft skills (more on that later), and even a large picture of the property with the Hampden Brewery sign on the roof.

Most of the guests probably won’t be back until there’s another round-number anniversary, said Carol Campbell, the company’s energetic president and CEO, who told BusinessWest that she’s marking her anniversary, in part, with steps and strategic planning to ensure that there are such occasions.

“We’ve done some looking back at where we’ve been and what we’ve accomplished,” she said of anniversary celebrations that officially began in February. “But we’re really looking ahead to what we need to do as a company. We want to be here in another 25 years.

“And what we really need to do is build on our strengths, and there any many of those,” she went on, “while also making ourselves more versatile and better-equipped to take on more kinds of jobs.”

There is much that goes into that phrase ‘better-equipped,’ including initiatives such as the company’s most recent acquisition, a 40/60 Hoist, as it’s called. The numbers reflect the fact that can handle loads of 40,000 to 60,000 pounds, and Hoist is both the name of the manufacturer and a description of what it does.

The machinery was acquired to give CIC more flexibility and the ability to work more efficiently, said Campbell, adding that it’s a solid investment in the company’s future.

As are other measures that fall into that category of being ‘better equipped,’ such as the many training programs carried out in a classroom carved out of space on the building’s second floor and other efforts to build and strengthen the CIC team.

“What makes CIC unique is that this is a group of individuals, brought together by skills, that believe in the company,” she told BusinessWest. “And they not only believe in our mission and our vision — they believe in CIC. It’s not ‘Carol Campbell’s company,’ it’s CIC, and that became apparent at our open house.”

The new piece of wall art at Chicopee Industrial Contractors tells a compelling story.

The new piece of wall art at Chicopee Industrial Contractors tells a compelling story.

But while Campbell said the 25th anniversary was a chance for her to thank customers such as Lenox, Smith & Wesson, Olympic Manufacturing, and others, as well as that team she talked about in such glowing terms, that second constituency turned the tables and thanked her with a gift.

This was a sculpture of sorts — a collection of the various tools of this trade (turnbuckles, chains, wrenches, and even a bottle opener as a nod to the building’s past as a brewery) welded into something approximating the number ‘25.’

Now holding down a prominent piece of wall space at CIC headquarters, the artwork is symbolic in that those tools, and employees’ mastery of them, made ‘25’ possible. This is a success formula that Campbell won’t be changing — but she may add some new ingredients to ensure that higher numbers can be reached.

Weighty Matters

As she talks about economic cycles, and especially downturns, both modest and severe, Campbell does so with tremendous recall and attention to detail.

Most people who have a business within the construction sector or who have a customer base dominated by manufacturers have such ability, and for good reason. Those are sectors that are among the most vulnerable to recessions, and, as noted, CIC is tied to both.

So she speaks from experience, and lots of it, when she says her business is what she calls a ‘lagger.’ That’s not a real word, but one nonetheless often used to describe a business that lags behind others when a recession hits. And that’s because there’s work to do soon after the economy turns south.

For CIC, that work translates into handling assignments for companies that are downsizing — or worse, as in closing their doors.

After work of this nature is done, then the recession hits for CIC. Which means that, while the phones stopped ringing at most businesses just a few hours after the planes struck the Twin Towers on 9/11, they didn’t really stop ringing at CIC until several months later. And it was the same later in the decade; while 2008, the height of the Great Recession, was the year of doom for most businesses, it was 2009 for CIC.

But while the declines come later, they are still profound, said Campbell, adding that one of her goals as she looks at what’s ahead for CIC is to reduce the impact of such declines, or, in other words, make the ups and downs (or at the least the downs) less dramatic.

This will be difficult, given the nature of the customer base and the general portfolio of products and services, but initiatives such as the new 40/60 Hoist will certainly help, she said.

In the meantime, the company will look to make itself more of a force when the economy is doing relatively well. And this involves sticking to the playbook first drafted in 1992, the one that enabled that sculpture to take the shape it did, and making the team carrying out those plays even stronger.

Elaborating, Campbell said one of her priorities moving forward is securing leadership for the future — at all levels.

“As we’ve brought new employees on from 10 years ago and 12 years ago, and even some of the more recent additions from the past few years, we’ve trained them to take leadership roles,” she explained. “So as we say ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’ to our senior staff, leadership can be transferred to that younger generation.”

And while developing leadership abilities, the company is continually building upon the skills of its team members, one of the keys to its ongoing success, Campbell noted, adding that this was one of the matters she’s stressed to employees as the company has marked 25 years in business.

“I told them that we got here by continuing to sharpen our skills, whether it be our technical skills or our soft skills,” she said, while noting that the latter, which involves team interaction with customers, is just as important as the former. “This has certainly served us well, and we will continue on that path.”

One of the biggest challenges the company faces moving forward is securing enough talented workers to handle the various types of assignments CIC undertakes.

Campbell said she has struggled for many years now to build the workforce when expansion was possible and needed, and like almost every owner of a manufacturing company or contractor, she’s concerned about the prospect of replacing those workers who will retire in the years to come.

“It’s definitely been a challenge — for us, and for everyone,” she told BusinessWest, adding quickly that the generally frustrating search for talent is not exactly stifling the company’s growth efforts, and it’s certainly not keeping CIC from taking on work. But it is a concern moving forward, and one of the many matters to address as the company ponders what the next 25 can and should be like.

Carrying the Load

As she posed for a few pictures around and on the 40/60 Hoist, Campbell looked ready to put it through its paces.

But she’ll leave that to her talented, experienced crews.

Instead, she’ll continue to do what she’s done from the start — manage, do some selling, build relationships, be active within the community and, most important, set a tone for the company she founded.

That would be a tone of continuous improvement and performing well as a team — something her father, Vic Fusia, who coached the UMass Amherst football team in the ’60s, would certainly appreciate.

Those attributes are responsible for the sculpture now gracing the hallway of the old brewery in Chicopee, and they’re the ones that will carry the company to new milestones — and moving experiences of all kinds.

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

Departments People on the Move
Robert Pura

Robert Pura

Greenfield Community College (GCC) President Robert Pura announced he will retire in June 2018 after 17½ years of service to the college and community. During his opening-day remarks to GCC’s faculty and staff on Aug. 31, Pura reflected on many things that the college community has achieved since he arrived in 2000, including:

• Creating the Testing Center, Wellness Center, Advising Center, Vet Center, and the Department Studios, as well as work with the courts and the jail, creation of the GCC Food Pantry, and development of the Senior Symposia;

• Experiencing extensive building renovations to the north and south wings, a new roof and weatherization of the East Building, and creation of the Greenhouse, the Outdoor Learning Lab, and the new Core building; and

• With the GCC Foundation, raising a total of $14 million, awarding 139 scholarships last spring, building the endowment to $5 million, among other accomplishments.

In addition to 39 years of experience as a teacher and administrator in the Massachusetts community-college system, the past 17 as president of Greenfield Community College, Pura is also a graduate of a community college. As the first in his family to attend college and the child of an immigrant, he said he understands what a community-college education can mean to students. “Opening the doors to higher education to all who aspire to a better life for themselves and their families while at the same time maintaining high academic standards is the noblest mission in higher education.” The GCC board will assemble a search committee, with the goal of choosing a new president within a year.

•••••

Chris Mader

Chris Mader

OMG Roofing Products has promoted Chris Mader to the position of technical services manager. In his new role, Mader will manage the day-to-day activities of the Technical Services department, which oversees building-code and approval issues, product-application issues, as well as technical customer-support activities. In addition, he will manage the technical-support team of Andy Cleveland and Stephen Childs. He reports to Josh Kelly, vice president and general manager. Mader started with OMG Roofing Products in 2011 as a codes and approvals support engineer. Since then, he has worked extensively with OMG’s private-label customers and code and approval officials both in North America and abroad, helping with product evaluation, developing technical product specifications, and maintaining code approvals and keeping abreast of technical changes and advancements in the commercial roofing industry. Prior to joining OMG, he was a manufacturing engineer with Hamilton Sundstrand. Mader is a member of the National Roofing Contractors Assoc., the Single-Ply Roofing Industry, and the Roof Consultants Institute. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from UMass Dartmouth and a master’s degree in engineering management from Western New England University.

•••••

Ralph Thresher

Ralph Thresher

Ralph Thresher has joined Webber & Grinnell Insurance as a loss-control consultant. He has more than 30 years of experience as a loss-control specialist. Through his expertise, Thresher has helped companies reduce their losses through policy and regulation implementation. In his most recent position with L.E. Mahoney/Wheeler & Taylor Inc., he worked with clients’ management teams to create a safer work environment through the evaluation of their existing safety policies and procedures, performing safety surveys of their work sites, and making recommendations to reduce accidents and improve regulatory compliance.

•••••

Jessica Laporte

Jessica Laporte

Anthony Worden

Anthony Worden

Michael Tucker, president and CEO of Greenfield Co-operative Bank, announced the promotions of Jessica Laporte to administrative officer and Anthony Worden to senior vice president, commercial loans. Laporte has been with the bank since 2013, and in her new role, she is primarily responsible for directing Bank Secrecy Act and fraud-monitoring efforts. She has more than 16 years of banking experience and is currently completing her bachelor’s degree from Southern New Hampshire University. She is based in the bank’s King Street, Northampton office. Worden has been with Greenfield Co-operative Bank since 2009. He will be primarily responsible for the management of the bank’s commercial-lending efforts. He has more than 18 years of commercial-lending and credit-analysis experience. He received his bachelor’s and MBA degrees from UMass Amherst and is a graduate of the Banking School at the Wharton School of Business.

•••••

The Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE) announced that Christopher Matteson has joined the EANE team as grant developer. He will work with EANE members to train and develop their workforces using funding secured from targeted grant sources. He brings more than 10 years of experience — primarily in the areas of manufacturing, healthcare, and social services — to his role at EANE. Matteson will spearhead the October initiative to generate awareness for Massachusetts-based companies in workforce-training opportunities, and will outline strategies and trends for significant funding resources. Two lunch programs will be held: one in EANE’s Auburn office on Tuesday, Oct. 3, and the other in Agawam on Friday, Oct. 6. Both programs run from noon to 1:30 p.m., and businesses and organizations can register at no charge by contacting Matteson at [email protected] EANE has facilitated numerous grants — close to $2 million in total, with several grants ranging from $200,000 to $250,000 — for members to increase job retention, growth, and wages; to foster more productive and competitive companies; and to increase commitments to private investment in training. Matteson spent more than eight years with the 500-member advocacy group the Rhode Island Manufacturers Assoc. and its nonprofit arm, the Rhode Island Manufacturing Institute, most recently as vice president and chief operating officer. In that position, he maintained member services, developed strong relationships with manufacturers, and created training programs in partnership with universities, community colleges, and local training providers. He developed several manufacturing apprenticeship programs which led to dozens of new hires for manufacturers, and spearheaded a program for Rhode Island called “Dream It, DO IT,” which is a national initiative charged with increasing the positive awareness of manufacturing as a career choice. Matteson also spent several years in social-service positions and mental-health community-action programs dealing with sex offenders, fire setters, and substance abusers, where he implemented behavior-modification and managed-treatment programs. Matteson has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and sociology from Rhode Island College and will complete his project management professional (PMP) certification in October at Bryant University. He has served on the advisory boards of Davies Career and Technical School, North Kingston High School, and East Providence Career and Technical School. He is a member of the National Assoc. of Workforce Development Professionals. He also serves on the board of directors for St. Mary’s Home for Children, a nonprofit agency offering comprehensive treatment programs for boys and girls traumatized by abuse or experiencing the challenges of psychiatric disorders.

•••••

Tighe & Bond, an engineering and environmental consulting firm, announced the recent addition of three senior environmental professionals to its team:

Christopher Koelle is a Connecticut licensed environmental professional (LEP) and project manager with 19 years of experience providing environmental-consulting services for a wide range of large and smaller-scale multi-disciplinary projects. This includes environmental assessment, hazardous building material (HBM) surveys, site development and redevelopment of brownfields, remediation, HBM abatement, and facility demolition. Koelle’s projects have involved assessment and remediation of PCBs, petroleum, solvents, and metals at both federally and state-regulated sites. He is known for developing innovative approaches to site assessment and remediation that have yielded significant savings at a multitude of sites across Connecticut. Koelle earned his bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Lehigh University, and his master’s in environmental science from the University of New Haven. He works out of the firm’s Middletown office, Conn. office;

• Shawn Rising is a Massachusetts licensed site professional (LSP) and project manager with more than 19 years of experience providing environmental-consulting services for a wide range of diverse projects throughout New England. He provides site assessment, remediation, due-diligence services, and environmental permitting. In addition, he has designed and implemented a variety of remedial programs for the treatment of oil and hazardous materials impacts to soil and groundwater under various regulatory programs. Rising has managed numerous waste site cleanup projects throughout the Northeast, with a focus on petroleum site assessment and remediation. In addition, he has substantial experience with facility compliance in the petroleum industry. Rising also has managed several large-scale due-diligence projects, supporting the acquisition of up to 300 properties under single-portfolio transaction. Currently he is providing LSP services for the closure of the former Mt. Tom power plant in Holyoke. Rising earned his bachelor’s degree in biology, with a minor in chemistry, from Westfield State University. He works primarily out of the firm’s Westfield office, routinely providing support to many other Tighe & Bond offices; and

Daniel Williams is a senior environmental-compliance specialist with more than 27 years of experience in industrial health and safety, as well as regulatory compliance. His expertise includes development and support for process-safety management; risk-management programs; environmental, health, and safety (EHS) programs; and various OSHA, EPA, and state environmental-compliance standards. Williams has developed, coordinated, and managed EHS policies, programs, training, and reporting processes for numerous industrial facilities throughout New England. During this time, he has overseen numerous safety improvements and implemented successful accident- and cost-reduction strategies. He brings a wealth of safety and compliance experience to the firm gained from past positions at industrial facilities in Massachusetts. Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in EHS program management from UMass Amherst. He works out of the firm’s Westfield office.

•••••

Michelle Baity

Michelle Baity

BFAIR (Berkshire Family & Individual Resources) announced the appointment of Michelle Baity as director of Human Resources. A key member of the senior leadership team at BFAIR, Michelle brings significant experience and knowledge to the organization. Prior to joining BFAIR, Baity’s human-resource experience includes the past 16 years at Berkshire County ARC, most recently serving as assistant director of Human Resources. During her tenure at Berkshire County ARC, she worked in all capacities within the human-resource field, gaining new responsibilities and skills throughout the years. Prior to her work in human resources, her career was dedicated to the field of human services. Baity holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. She is a 2004 graduate of the Berkshire Leadership Program. She volunteers for the Berkshire Place as a member of its personnel committee, is the past president of the Reid Middle School PTO, and worked on the city of Pittsfield’s Winter Carnival.

•••••

Elms College added nine new faculty members in accounting, biology, communication sciences and disorders, education, nursing, and social work:

• Sara Smiarowski, an adjunct professor in the Elms MBA program, has been promoted to assistant professor of Accounting. Most recently, she was CFO of Berkshire Brewing Company in South Deerfield, MA. She also held leadership financial roles at Yankee Candle Co. in South Deerfield and Kringle Candle Co. in Bernardston;

• Joining Elms as a lecturer in Biology is Dr. Andrew Rucks. Most recently, Rucks has been a faculty member at American International College in Springfield and a consultant with Westat in Rockville, Md. He previously held faculty positions at Holyoke Community College, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston, and Western New England College;

Brittney Carlson and Kathleen Murphy have been hired as assistant professors of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Carlson, who had been an adjunct professor at Elms since January, most recently served as a staff audiologist for VA Connecticut Healthcare System. Since 2004, Murphy has worked in a number of roles for Futures Education, Futures Healthcore in Springfield. She has also served as a speech language pathologist at Stepping Stones Birth to Three Center in Hartford, Conn.; Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton; and Holyoke Public Schools;

• Joining Elms as associate professor of Education is Natalie Dunning, and as lecturer of Education is Shannon Dillard. Dunning had been assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for Freetown-Lakeville Regional Schools in Lakeville since 2013. Prior to that, she was chief academic officer for Springfield Public Schools and K-12 supervisor of science for Providence (R.I.) Public Schools. Dillard has been adjunct faculty in curriculum development at Bay Path University since 2010. Prior to that, she was a clinical faculty member and lecturer at UMass Amherst;

• New faculty in the School of Nursing are Elizabeth Fiscella as associate professor of Nursing, and Deana Nunes as instructor of Nursing. Fiscella most recently served as an associate professor of Nursing at Berkshire Community College and as assistant clinical professor of Nursing at UMass. Nunes, a certified wound care nurse at Mercy Wound Care Center in Springfield since 2010, has been a clinical adjunct at Elms College since 2015; and

William Gilbert has joined the college as assistant professor of Social Work. He has more than 25 years of experience in social work as a clinician, administrator, supervisor, and educator. He has taught at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic; the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Conn.; the University of Connecticut in West Hartford; and Elms College. His social-services experience includes positions at agencies such as Catholic Charities in Norwich, Conn.; Family Support Services; Community Prevention and Addiction Services Inc. in Willimantic, Conn.; and the Village for Families and Children Inc. in Hartford, Conn.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 4.2% in  August, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate that Massachusetts added 10,800 jobs in August. Over the month, the private sector added 9,900 jobs as gains occurred in professional, scientific, and business services; other services; information; construction; and manufacturing. The July estimate was revised to a gain of 2,500 jobs.

From August 2016 to August 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 57,400 jobs.

The August unemployment rate was two-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 4.4% reported by the bureau.

“Massachusetts has gained 57,400 jobs in the last year, with much of that growth concentrated in key economic sectors like health, education, professional, business, and scientific services,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta. “While these job gains, alongside a low unemployment rate, are signs of a strong economy in the Commonwealth, skills gaps and labor-market pressures persist. That is why our workforce-development agencies and partners continue to focus on matching available workers with the training and resources they need to connect to high-demand jobs.”

The labor force decreased by 17,200 from 3,697,700 in July, as 10,700 fewer residents were employed and 6,500 fewer residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased eight-tenths of a percentage point from 3.4% in August 2016. There were 31,300 more unemployed residents over the year compared to August 2016.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased three-tenths of a percentage point to 66.1% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has increased 1.3% compared to August 2016.

The largest private sector percentage job gains over the year were in other services; professional, scientific, and business services; education and health services; and financial activities.

Daily News

AGAWAM — The Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE) announced that Christopher Matteson has joined the EANE team as grant developer. He will work with EANE members to train and develop their workforces using funding secured from targeted grant sources. He brings more than 10 years of experience — primarily in the areas of manufacturing, healthcare, and social services — to his role at EANE.

Matteson will spearhead the October initiative to generate awareness for Massachusetts-based companies in workforce-training opportunities, and will outline strategies and trends for significant funding resources. Two lunch programs will be held: one in EANE’s Auburn office on Tuesday, Oct. 3, and the other in Agawam on Friday, Oct. 6. Both programs run from noon to 1:30 p.m., and businesses and organizations can register at no charge by contacting Matteson at [email protected].

EANE has facilitated numerous grants — close to $2 million in total, with several grants ranging from $200,000 to $250,000 — for members to increase job retention, growth, and wages; to foster more productive and competitive companies; and to increase commitments to private investment in training.

Matteson spent more than eight years with the 500-member advocacy group the Rhode Island Manufacturers Assoc. and its nonprofit arm, the Rhode Island Manufacturing Institute, most recently as vice president and chief operating officer. In that position, he maintained member services, developed strong relationships with manufacturers, and created training programs in partnership with universities, community colleges, and local training providers. He developed several manufacturing apprenticeship programs which led to dozens of new hires for manufacturers, and spearheaded a program for Rhode Island called “Dream It, DO IT,” which is a national initiative charged with increasing the positive awareness of manufacturing as a career choice.

Matteson also spent several years in social-service positions and mental-health community-action programs dealing with sex offenders, fire setters, and substance abusers, where he implemented behavior-modification and managed-treatment programs.

Matteson has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and sociology from Rhode Island College and will complete his project management professional (PMP) certification in October at Bryant University. He has served on the advisory boards of Davies Career and Technical School, North Kingston High School, and East Providence Career and Technical School. He is a member of the National Assoc. of Workforce Development Professionals. He also serves on the board of directors for St. Mary’s Home for Children, a nonprofit agency offering comprehensive treatment programs for boys and girls traumatized by abuse or experiencing the challenges of psychiatric disorders.

Daily News

AGAWAM — OMG Roofing Products has promoted Chris Mader to the position of technical services manager. In his new role, Mader will manage the day-to-day activities of the Technical Services department, which oversees building-code and approval issues, product-application issues, as well as technical customer-support activities. In addition, he will manage the technical-support team of Andy Cleveland and Stephen Childs. He reports to Josh Kelly, vice president and general manager.

Mader started with OMG Roofing Products in 2011 as a codes and approvals support engineer. Since then, he has worked extensively with OMG’s private-label customers and code and approval officials both in North America and abroad, helping with product evaluation, developing technical product specifications, and maintaining code approvals and keeping abreast of technical changes and advancements in the commercial roofing industry. Prior to joining OMG, he was a manufacturing engineer with Hamilton Sundstrand.

Mader is a member of the National Roofing Contractors Assoc., the Single-Ply Roofing Industry, and the Roof Consultants Institute. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from UMass Dartmouth and a master’s degree in engineering management from Western New England University.

Healthcare Heroes

Emergency Department Director Creates Efficiencies — and a True ‘Front Door’

Erin Daley, RN, BSN

Erin Daley, RN, BSN
Dani Fine Photography

Almost from the first moment she stepped into the emergency room at Cooley Dickinson Hospital as a nursing student at UMass Amherst, Erin Daley knew this was the environment in which she wanted to work — and maybe spend a career.

“The ER is one of those places where you either love it immediately or you know it’s not for you, and it’s always been a place I absolutely loved,” said Daley, who, when asked what prompted the fast, deep embrace of this setting, said simply, “everything about it.”

“It’s that ability to be reactive,” she went on, as she went into some detail about what she meant by ‘everything.’ “And be able to change priorities at a moment’s notice. It’s unique, challenging, but not in a negative context, and there is nothing routine about it.”

These sentiments are reflected in the way Daley talked about everything from a much-needed return to the ER at CDH after a stint as a telemetry nurse at Baystate Medical Center to broaden her horizons, as she put it — “even though I learned a ton, I knew labor and delivery were not for me and I needed to get to the ER” — to the enthusiastic manner in which she relayed her affection for the work involved with being a ‘charge nurse’ in the ED at Mercy Medical Center.

“You have to know everything about everyone at all times in order to fit the puzzle pieces together,” she explained. “It’s this constant juggling act.”

And her affection for this setting was clearly evident when she talked about how much she misses being directly on the front lines, if you will, in her current role as director of Emergency Services at Mercy.

“I loved being an emergency-room nurse,” she said, expressing clear regret at having to use the past tense. “On days that they’re really busy and if there’s things I could skip, I’d gladly do that to jump in, even if it’s just to help transport patients; most of the day to day does not allow me to be out there anymore.”

But while there is that drawback to her current position, if one chooses to call it that, there are nonetheless many different kinds of rewards — everything from orchestrating strong improvements in the overall efficiency of the Mercy ER to working with a host of other players to help stem the tide of the nation’s opioid crisis.

Her boundless energy has gained her the reputation of being a go-getter, one who gets things done, and overall future leader for our healthcare system and community. She is both an emerging leader and one who has emerged.”

For her achievements in all these realms, Daley was the top scorer amid a strong field of candidates within the Emerging Leader category for these inaugural Healthcare Heroes Awards.

To put her efforts into proper perspective requires liberal use of numbers. For example, she oversees an ER with nearly 80,000 annual patient visits, making it one of the busiest in the state in terms of visits per bed. She oversees a staff of 160 and a budget of $65 million. More numbers are needed to chronicle the process improvements she and her staff have orchestrated with several key measurements of care. For example, the Mercy ER has:

• Decreased the ‘left without being seen’ rates from 5% to 2%, thus improving revenues;

• Decreased overall ‘door-to-door’ time, as it’s called, by 57 minutes;

• Increased patient-satisfaction scores by 40%; and

• Improved employee-engagement scores by 33%.

However, words and phrases are needed to convey how all this was accomplished — phrases like ‘whole-person care,’ used to describe an approach that views health for ED patients as a segue into engaging them in better health — and ‘care map,’ an aptly named initiative that charts a course for individual patients, especially frequent visitors to the ER.

First, though, some words and phrases from Doreen Fadus, vice president of Mission Integration and Community Health at Mercy Medical Center, who nominated Daley, are in order.

“Her boundless energy has gained her the reputation of being a go-getter, one who gets things done, and overall future leader for our healthcare system and community,” she wrote. “She is both an emerging leader and one who has emerged.”

Volume Business

As she talked about her staff’s efforts in the broad realm off efficiency, or process improvement, Daley told BusinessWest that they are driven largely by necessity.

Indeed, the Mercy ED has 36 beds (just over one-third the number at Baystate Medical Center, by way of comparison), which she described as both a blessing and a curse.

“We’re very spacially constrained considering the volume that we have — 36 beds for just shy of 80,000 patients,” she explained. “That’s driven us to be so efficient; it’s made us relook at how we do things, look at our data all the time, and undertake process-improvement initiatives, because we don’t have the luxury of having a lot of beds.

“We look at every aspect of how a patient moves through the system,” she went on. “And if there’s any means for reducing waste and redoing processes, we’ll find it. If there’s 10 extra steps that a staff nurse has to take to do a particular task, taking that waste out of their day puts their attention where it needs to be — back on the patient.”

How Daley came to be directing these efforts at improved efficiency is an intriguing story, one of moving progressively higher in the ranks in terms of responsibility within that environment she came to love.

After her stint at CDH, she came to the Mercy ED in 2004. She told BusinessWest she was attracted by its reputation for being a nurse-driven environment, a description she found to be certainly accurate, and a foundation she would only build upon.

She started as a staff nurse, taking care of patients at the bedside, and remained in that role for eight years, eventually assuming charge-nurse duties, which, as noted earlier, she found quite rewarding.

Mercy Medical Center

Erin Daley says the emergency room, and especially Mercy Medical Center’s, is a unique environment she described as a ‘constant juggling act.’

“It’s probably my favorite job,” she said. “You’re really trying to manage throughput, and it’s a gigantic puzzle with all these moving parts. It’s about how you have to think about the ED; there’s a certain number of beds, ‘X’ amount of patients you’re trying to get through, you’re trying to allocate resources and potentially pull resources from one area to another area to always have throughput in mind, with the patient at the center of it all.

“You’re like an air traffic controller,” she went on. “One’s coming in, one’s going out, and you’re having to reassess that constantly in order to optimize the space that you have.”

In 2010, Daley became clinical nurse supervisor in the Mercy ED, and in that role was directly responsible for the supervision of the department, with specific duties ranging from staffing to scheduling; from compliance to being what she called a “real-time resource,” meaning she was still in the trenches. In 2015, she became nurse manager of the ED, assuming responsibility for productivity and throughput metrics.

And just over a year ago, she was named director of Emergency Services, meaning oversight of the department and all its personnel and not being in the trenches, as she noted earlier.

But it does mean bringing a higher level of efficiency to those front lines, while also bringing new meaning to the notion that the ED is a hospital’s ‘front door’ and a resource for the community beyond emergency care.

“I want to know what’s happening in the community and how I can be a supporting influence,” said Daley, noting that she is involved with everything from the region’s opioid task force to a committee battling human trafficking.

That phrase ‘supporting influence’ gets to the heart of both Daley’s management style and the philosophy that she and her staff members embrace when it comes to what an ED should be and how it should function.

Regarding the former, she said she is a mentor as well as a manager, one whose simple ambitions when it comes to her team are to “inspire, uplift, and motivate.”

And as for the latter, she said the ED cannot only be a place to receive emergency care. In the whole-person-care model, it is also a vehicle for engaging individuals in better health, through such things as medication-management discussions, assistance with setting up post ED visit primary care, behavioral-health services, and more.

As an example, she cited the drug-overdose victim who arrives at the emergency room.

“If someone comes in that has overdosed on opioids … we could be that last line of support to reach out to them,” she explained. “They may have burned bridges everywhere with their family, with their friends, and we could be that last line to reach out to them.”

Elaborating, she said those in the ED, through the unit’s Complex Care program, strive to be more proactive with those who overdose, for example, and not simply treat them and move them through.

“We follow up with phone calls and try to reach out and talk with these individuals after they’ve had a chance to recover,” she explained. “It’s a traumatic experience, that whole overdose process … you’re given Narcan, now you’re in acute withdrawal; it’s incredibly traumatic.”

Erin Daley

Erin Daley says her management style encourages teamwork and solving common problems together.

Fadus may have summed up Daley’s ‘front door’ approach best, noting that “her understanding that the ED can provide the entry way to both providing medical services and the guidance of health education has led to many patients experiencing healthcare through a system rather than rely on services mainly through the venue of the ED.”

By the Numbers

As noted earlier, there are many numbers, or metrics, involved with an emergency department, and all through her career and especially in her current capacity, Daley has been involved with bringing specific numbers higher or lower — whichever translates into improvement.

In the case of patient satisfaction, an upward trajectory is obviously desired, while, when it comes to the ‘left without being seen’ category, downward movement is the goal, because individuals are leaving generally out of frustration with the time they’re spending in the ER waiting room. And when they leave, valuable revenue is lost, and, more importantly, these individuals may be endangering their health.

To achieve improvement in that ‘left without being seen’ category, and all others, the Mercy team embodies ‘lean’ strategies commonly used on the manufacturing floor and other settings, said Daley, adding that the goal is always to remove waste and improve efficiency. But while doing so, patient care cannot be compromised.

And Mercy has managed to do this with what is perhaps the most-watched ER statistic, the one focused on door-to-door time (from when they check in until they are discharged), which Mercy has managed to reduce by nearly an hour — 57 minutes to be exact — to 157 minutes.

This was accomplished with something called a split-flow model, which, as that name suggests, splits those arriving in the ER into ‘lower acuity’ and ‘higher acuity’ categories. “If you can keep vertical patients vertical, the ease of them getting through the system improves, and you can decrease length of stay dramatically by not even putting them in a hospital bed.”

Elaborating, she said the ED took one of its triage rooms and created the aptly named ‘rapid medical exam’ (RME) room. There, patients deemed to be low-acuity are triaged, seen by a provider, and discharged, all from that one room.

“If all of those patients that are of that lower acuity never hit the back of the ER and never take up a bed, you increase your capacity for sicker patients,” Daley explained. “You increase capacity, not because you’ve added beds, but because you’ve added bed hours.

“When we piloted this on our busiest days, it was incredibly successful, and over the next few years, we went from Monday and Tuesday to Monday through Friday, and then, as our volumes grew, we expanded it to every day of the week,” she explained, adding that the RME model has also had a huge impact on the ‘left without being seen’ numbers as well, because of the additional bed space.

These improvements have come about through that lean approach to operations, learning from best practices, and working together as a team to solve problems and achieve continuous improvement, said Daley, adding that her management style encourages all this.

“I’m successful because I have an amazing team of people that I work with — everyone who’s in a leadership capacity in this department is an over-achiever and a go-getter,” she noted. “I’m not the kind of person who micromanages at all; I like to be collaborative and make a goal together.

“How each individual person gets there … I don’t micromanage that,” she went on, “because everyone has their own style, and they do better working their own project in the way they feel comfortable. But we all have the same goals in mind, and they are lofty goals.”

Looking ahead, Daley, now pursuing an MBA at Elms College, is focused on building upon both her leadership skills and her grasp of the many financial aspects of her position and others within the higher ranks of healthcare management.

“I want to be very knowledgeable about how my business, meaning my department, runs, and feel confident about that,” she explained. “From there … I’m not quite sure what the future holds.

“I like operations a lot — fitting those puzzle pieces together,” she went on. “I can see myself overseeing operations on a larger scale. But I also love the work I do in the community.”

Bottom Line

For now, she will continue to oversee the air-traffic controllers and others in the ED, create more process improvements, and, in general, go on being a ‘supportive influence’ — there’s that phrase again — with her staff, in the ED, and within the community she serves.

As Doreen Fadus noted, Daley is both an emerging leader and an energetic administrator who has, in many ways, already emerged.

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

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

By Alta J. Stark

Colleen Henry says Lee has always had a great location, but as a community, it has also been very innovative.

Colleen Henry says Lee has always had a great location, but as a community, it has also been very innovative.

Ask a Lee business leader or owner what the key to their success is, and you’ll hear one resounding answer: “location, location, location.”

Lee’s prime location at Massachusetts Turnpike exit 2 has afforded the town some of the best economic opportunities in Berkshire County. “It’s ideal in that regard,” said Jonathan Butler, the president and CEO of 1Berkshire.

“Lee has always had a solid amount of traffic through its downtown because of its proximity to the Pike, and having Route 20 run right through its downtown, but the community doesn’t rest on location alone,” he told BusinessWest. “They’ve done a lot of work to make the town a destination, not just a spot people pass through.”

The community has undergone quite an impressive downtown revitalization over the past decade, following a series of economic transitions in the ’80s and ’90s, as large employers, including a series of paper mills, closed. The most recent such closure was Schweitzer-Mauduit International in 2008, which led to the loss of several hundred jobs in the community. Butler says the town got back on its feet by “forging a partnership between its town government and its community development corporation. They did a lot of good work in the 2000s, focusing on redevelopment projects of a few key downtown properties. They also did a big facelift for the downtown, making it look much more inviting for all the traffic that comes through.”

“People have worked really hard to make Lee beautiful and livable,” said Colleen Henry, executive director of the Lee Chamber of Commerce. “We’re very innovative in Lee, and always have been.”

In fact, town founders were so savvy, they redirected the location of the Housatonic River. Lee was founded in the 1700s when the river flowed down the town’s current Main Street. Henry says the area flooded often because it was on a downhill, so the river was redirected to expand to the riverbank and enable downtown to flourish.

Today, there’s a lot of diversity to Lee’s economy, including high-quality manufacturing jobs, farms, quality eateries and resorts, eclectic stores, coffee shops, and iconic retailers.

This mix has created an intriguing business story, one that is continuously adding new chapters. For this, the latest installment of its Community Spotlight series, BusinessWest turns some of those pages.

What’s in Store

The largest employer in Lee is the Lee Premium Outlets, which, during the tourist season, employs about 750 people in its 60 outlet stores. Carolyn Edwards, general manager of the complex, said the facility recognizes the important role it plays in driving the local economy.

“We tend to advertise out of market to draw tourists and shoppers to the region. Our customer base is driven by cultural attractions such as Tanglewood, Jacob’s Pillow, and Shakespeare & Company,” said Edwards. “But once they’re here, they make a day, sometimes a week of it, and we’re always giving recommendations for ‘what’s a great restaurant to eat at?’ or ‘can you recommend a great hotel to stay at tonight?’ If it’s a rainy day, they ask, ‘what can I do with the kids?’

“We try to stay in tune with what’s going on in the community,” she went on. “And I think it’s a good relationship where we offer something for folks who are here, and then we’re driving business elsewhere as well.”

Edwards said the outlets average about 2 million visitors a year, with shoppers coming from local markets, as well as regional and international locations.

Lee Premium Outlets has become a destination within a destination community.

Lee Premium Outlets has become a destination within a destination community.

“I love meeting the customers,” she said. “I’m always amazed at people who show up from far and away. In the summer, we have a lot of foreign camp counselors who come here to ramp up their wardrobes before going back to the UK, France, and Spain. It’s fun to see them buy things that they’re excited to bring back and show their families. We always look forward to their return.”

Edwards said they come for brand names like Michael Kors, Coach, and Calvin Klein, and they return each year to see what’s new. “We always want to deliver a new experience when someone comes. We’re different from maybe your local mall in that respect because we’re kind of a destination. Shoppers look forward to coming, they plan on coming, and when they do, that’s always the first question: ‘what’s new?’”

Down the road a piece is the headquarters and distribution center of another iconic retailer, Country Curtains. Colleen Henry said its annual sale at the Rink is a big draw. “When they have their sales, they put up a sign. People stop their cars and get out. Once they do that, and walk around Lee and see all that we have to offer, then we all benefit.”

Trade, transportation, and utilities lead the list of employment by industry in Lee, followed by leisure and hospitality, and education and health services. Manufacturing is number four on the list, and while many of the paper mills have closed, the sector is still holding strong, making up more than 7% of the workforce in the Berkshires, and representing some of the highest wages in the region. In Lee, in particular, there are three high-tech companies along the Route 102 corridor that are providing some of the highest wages in the region.

Onyx Specialty Papers is the town’s third-largest employer with more than 150 employees. Butler said it’s a remnant of some of the larger mill closings in the 2000s that was bought by local shareholders with a vision. “It’s now locally run and owned, and they’ve innovated their technology to produce very unique, technically exacting papers. Their products are distributed across the globe.”

Down the road there’s Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing, a manufacturer to the pharmaceutical industry, a relatively new employer that found its way to Lee with the help of a strong regional partnership.

“We not only helped them find space, we also worked with our local community college to do some specific training for their workforce needs,” said Butler.

SEE: Lee at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1777
Population: 5,878
Area: 27 square miles
County: Berkshire
Residential Tax Rate: $14.72
Commercial Tax Rate: $14.72
Median Household Income: $58,790
Median Family Income: $71,452
Type of government: Representative Town Meeting
Largest employers: Lee Premium Outlets; Country Curtains; Onyx Specialty Papers; the Village at Laurel Lake; Oak ‘n Spruce Resort; Big Y
* Latest information available

A third high-end employer providing quality jobs is Boyd Technologies, another company that’s been successful in transitioning from one generation of ownership to the next. Butler said he’s encouraged by these companies because “they’re doing a great job of innovating and diversifying what they’re doing. The economy’s evolving, and they’re evolving with it.”

Henry said she’s working to bring in more high-tech companies. “We have the space for it; we have more open land than a few others of the towns in the Berkshires, so we have the room to grow and expand.”

Henry is also excited by a huge project that’s been on the horizon for several years now, the redevelopment of the Eagle Mill. It’s one of those old Schweitzer-Mauduit mills off North Main Street that has been closed for several years.

Renaissance Mill LLC is working to transform the space into a mix of different economic uses that could help expand downtown offerings, adding everything from lodging to additional eateries and attractions.

“Projects like the Eagle Mill give Lee the opportunity to continue to become a bigger and bigger part of the Berkshire visitor economy, and it’s also a space that eventually will be able to attract next-generation families with a variety of different affordable-housing options,” said Butler. “Presently, Lee boasts relatively reasonable real-estate prices from both the rental and buyer’s market perspective. Adding additional affordable housing will position the town to be very competitive.”

Character Building

Of course, the heart and soul of the town is its quintessential New England charm. Lee has maintained its small-town character through decades of growth and change.

“That’s what we’re all about, and what we would like to be known for even more,” said Henry. “We benefit from the location because we’re at the entrance to a great tourist destination, but we also benefit from the location because it’s beautiful on its own.”

Butler agreed, noting that “Lee is one of those Berkshire communities that’s really bounced back in the past 15 years in terms of its downtown being filled up with great coffee shops, cool bars and restaurants, and an interesting mix of quality stores. It really has a destination feel to it for visitors to the Berkshires, but it’s also the type of downtown that’s really prominent for residents who live in the community.”

Joe’s Diner has been serving the community for more than 60 years, literally and figuratively. Customers far and wide know the diner as the backdrop of one of Norman Rockwell’s most well-known works, “The Runaway,” featuring a state trooper and a young boy sitting on stools in the diner.

The Sept. 20, 1958 Saturday Evening Post cover hangs proudly in the diner, next to a photo of the neighbors Rockwell recruited to model for him, state trooper Richard Clemens and Eddie Locke. Longtime staffers are used to the attention, and don’t miss a beat filling coffee cups while they help make memories for visitors.

Lee is also home to “the best courtroom in the county,” where its most famous case was that of Arlo Guthrie, whose day in court is remembered in the lyrics to his famous war-protest song, “Alice’s Restaurant.”

But there are other hidden gems that Henry invites people to discover, like the Animagic Museum on Main Street, where visitors can learn about the many local animators who made movie magic in films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, and The Lord of the Rings. One of the town’s quirkiest claims to fame is on property that was once the Highfield Farm. “Monument to a Cow” is a marble statue of a cow named Highfield Colantha Mooie, who in her 18 years produced 205,928 pounds of milk.

Henry says it’s the diversity of business and industry that drives Lee’s economy.

“You can get everything you need in Lee. You don’t have to go somewhere else,” she said. “And you can buy from people who you know, people you see in church and in the grocery store and at basketball games. Supporting the community is really important, and people really do that in Lee. Residents understand that supporting the local economy is really important to our survival.”

Edwards said Lee is unique because of its thriving downtown.

“It’s alive, and it’s beautiful. You turn onto Main Street and see flowers everywhere,” she said. “It’s well-kept, and there are locally owned businesses there and restaurants that are very unique and not necessarily chain restaurants, so there is the best of both worlds in Lee.”

On Location

Henry says she’s proud to be part of Lee’s success story and recognizes it’s just part of the bigger Berkshire picture.

“We’re a work in progress, part of a bigger whole that’s more than just individual town thinking,” she told BusinessWest. “We’re tied into this together in a lot of ways.”

Butler agreed, and said the region has a good handle on the future. “We know what the challenges are, and we have a growing understanding of where the opportunities are,” he explained. “Lee is a great microcosm of the Berkshires in that it went through the same economic transitions that the majority of our communities went through in the ’70s into the ’90s and early 2000s, but Lee bounced back.

“It’s found its place in the visitor economy,” he went on. “It’s found its place in having employers that are evolving and doing cutting-edge things, and it’s attracting families. It’s a really great example of the potential for all our Berkshire communities.”

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