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Opinion

Editorial

 

President Joe Biden famously, and matter-of-factly, announced recently that the pandemic is “over.”

Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen, but what isn’t in question is the fact that, while the pandemic may indeed be a matter for the past tense, businesses large and small continue to face a mountain of challenges, many of them stemming directly or indirectly from the pandemic.

This much was made clear in a recently released MassINC survey that revealed, among other things, that just over half the businesses polled, 53%, are reporting revenues lower than before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, inflation is at a 40-year high, supply-chain issues persist, a labor shortage continues, the Great Resignation is far from over, and now there is apparently a new workforce issue to contend with — so-called ‘quiet quitting,’ whereby employees don’t officially leave their jobs; they just do the bare minimum.

We’re not sure if quiet quitting is a byproduct of the pandemic or not — it’s a relatively new phenomenon, and there is not much data on it — but just about everything else is, from inflation to the supply-chain issues to the persistent problems companies are having with staffing up.

So while it’s good to hear that the pandemic is over — at least in a technical sense; we’re now told that COVID is in the same category as the flu — the ‘normal’ that everyone in the Western Mass. business community was seeking ever since we first heard of COVID seems like it is still a long way off.

Especially with growing talk about a recession, when it will come, how severe it will be — and whether or not we are already in one, which many economists already believe we are, as well as headlines about soaring energy costs and escalation of fighting in Ukraine.

Maybe the biggest issue, though, is the Federal Reserve’s ongoing fight against inflation. The Fed recently raised interest rates again, this time by three-quarters of a point for the third straight time, an aggressive tactic that might — that’s might — bring inflation back down to its 2% goal, but at a potentially high cost when it comes to the economy and the plight of businesses large and small.

Indeed, the tactics used to fight inflation may well tip the economy into a recession and, in the meantime, make it harder for businesses to attain the capital they need to expand, prompting more job cuts; many businesses have already gone from hiring to laying people off. Fed policy makers are projecting that the jobless rate will reach 4.4% by the end of 2023, up from its current level of 3.7%.

Overall, the cure may be worse than the disease, as the nation witnessed 40 years ago, when, to tame inflation, the Fed pushed the country into a protracted recession.

President Biden also said recently that he believes that a “soft landing” is possible for the economy. Perhaps, but many economists are predicting a much harder fall.

That’s not what area business owners want to hear after two and a half long years of battling the pandemic and its many side effects.

Technically speaking, the pandemic is over, but the challenges remain. We said back in March 2020 that the local business community was resilient and up to the challenge. We still believe that, but this resilience is certainly being tested, and the quest for normal — whatever that is — goes on.

Incorporations

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

AGAWAM

Nakaru Trans Inc., 238 Cooper St., Agawam, MA, 01001. Alexander Gribanov, same. Transportation services.

AMHERST

PGD Foodie Group Inc., 200 West Pomeroy Lane, Amherst, MA 01002. George Ducharme, same. Restaurant.

CHICOPEE

M & V Cleaning Services Corp., 55 Gilmore St., Chicopee, MA, 01013. Wilton Da Silva, same. Janitorial cleaning services.

Nesterchuk Home Improvement Inc., 280 College St., Chicopee, MA, 01013. Nikolay Nesterchuk, same. Home Improvement.

EAST LONGMEADOW

Apollo Medical Inc., 127 Country Club Dr., East Longmeadow, MA, 01028. David Laporte, same. Medical device sales.

EASTHAMPTON

Strategic Consulting Solutions Inc., 147 West St., Easthampton, MA, 01027. Loren Davine, same. Consulting services.

GREENFIELD

M2B Home Delivery Inc., 139 Silvio O. Conte Dr., Greenfield, MA, 01301. Adam J. Provost, same. Retail sales.

HOLYOKE

Restaurante La Isla Corp., 161 High St., Holyoke, MA, 01040. Yanercy Diaz De La Cruz, same. Restaurant.

LUDLOW

Iglesia El Candelero De Dios, 182 Howard St. Apt 1R, Ludlow, MA, 01056. Gerson Crespo, 83 Windsor St. Ludlow, MA 01056. Religious organization designed for the purpose to train leaders, teach bible, preach the gospel and serve the needs of the community.

MONTAGUE

Project Nadiya Inc., 70 Main St., Montague, MA, 01351. Nadezhda Tkachenko, same. Build, refurbish and manage housing in the Ukraine and surrounding countries for the purpose of providing shelter for displaced persons impacted by war and unrest.

PITTSFIELD

Easnott Inc., 987 North St., Pittsfield, MA, 01201. Desiree Eason, same. 24-Hour community care services.

Marvelous, Elegant, Lifestyle (M.E.L.) Inc., 82 Wendell Ave. Suite 100, Pittsfield, MA, 01201. Matsuko Leathers, same. Elegant lifestyle.

SS Productions, 82 Wendell Ave., Suite 100, Pittsfield, MA, 01201. Sarah Seymour, same. Media production and art services.

SOUTH DEERFIELD

Soulive Music Group Inc., 2B Duncan Dr., South Deerfield, MA, 01373. Alan Evans, same. Music performances and recording services.

SOUTHAMPTON

Hypnosage Inc., 4 Manhan Road, Southampton, MA, 01073. Saskia Coté, 510 Blisswood Village Drive Ludlow, MA 01056. Alternative therapy and retail products.

SPRINGFIELD

All Empire Inc., 172 Lebanon, Springfield, MA, 01109. Robert Elliotte Flowers, same. Home improvement services.

Pacc Transition Inc., 819 Worcester St., Ste. 1, Springfield, MA, 01151. Adnan Dahdul, same. Holdings company.

Shida Inc., 590 Boston Rd., Springfield, MA, 01119. Awel Mehemed-Aman Adem, 51 Washington Road, Springfield, MA 01108. Convenience store.

Youth Educational Services Inc., 174 Marion Street Unit 2, Springfield, MA, 01109. Sonya Barber, P.O. Box 90933 Springfield, MA 01139. Tutoring for youth and young adults. Assisting high school students in applying to colleges or technical schools.

WESTFIELD

Bee-Shine Spa Inc., 38 Salvatore Dr., Westfield, MA, 01085. Magali Vinces, same. Nail salon and spa.

O.J.M. Pik Reno Corp., 3 Lozier Ave., Apt 1, Westfield, MA, 01085. Oleh Pikulskiy, same. Construction services.

Boos E-Bikes Inc., 9 Old Orchard Road, Wilbraham, MA, 01095. Mirian Santos Costa, same. Retail sales of motorcycles and scooters.

Community Spotlight

Community Spotlight

Great Barrington came to life with the help of weekend performances by Berkshire Busk!

Great Barrington came to life with the help of weekend performances by Berkshire Busk!

Like most communities that rely on tourism and hospitality to anchor their economies, Great Barrington was hit hard by COVID-19, with its lively downtown coming to a virtual standstill in the early months of the pandemic and recovery coming slowly amid different surges in 2021 and even early this year.

But in recent months, this community, the hub of the Southern Berkshires, is starting to look like its old self — with some wrinkles and some businesses in new places, as we’ll see. Which means its restaurants, clubs, and cultural attractions are thriving, and people from near and somewhat far are once again finding Great Barrington.

“Everything kind of filled in accordingly,” said Betsy Andrus, executive director of the Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, referring to both the calendar of events and downtown real estate. “The normal things that have happened, even if they had their hiatus during COVID, are back and seem to be back in full swing.”

This past summer has been a good one for the community as higher gas prices prompted more day tripping, said Andrus, adding that there was considerable pent-up demand for all that Great Barrington has to offer — from brewpubs to a wide range of dining options to an eclectic mix of shops — and business owners took full advantage of the opportunities afforded them.

Town Manager Mark Pruhenski agreed.

“This past summer has been incredible for Great Barrington,” he said. “There were a number of events taking place, such as the popular summer concert series every Wednesday and Friday, the Fire Department’s annual car show, and the farmer’s market that is held every Saturday.”

One of the most popular events this summer made a return after its COVID hiatus. Berkshire Busk! took advantage of the close-knit nature of the town’s businesses and offered many different types of entertainment in different locations. For its third year, weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day were packed with magic, performing arts, music, and more.

“It’s difficult to say if inflation has impacted tourism because it didn’t seem to impact the number of visitors. But inflation is certainly impacting purchasing and project costs for the town, and housing challenges remain a high priority.”

“I’ve lost count of how many weekends they had multiple performers at different venues,” Andrus told BusinessWest. “It exposed the public to so many different local artisans and it was very popular with visitors and locals.”

For this, the latest installment of its Community Spotlight series, BusinessWest turns its lens on Great Barrington, which hasn’t put COVID in its rear-view mirror, but is definitely looking to even better times down the road.

 

Picking Up the Pace

Andrus noted that, as businesses started to get back into their groove, there was what she called “a great rotation” throughout Great Barrington’s downtown area — businesses moving from one location to another as spaces become available.

This phenomenon changed the landscape in a minor way, but it added a new element to a central business district that has always been a popular destination.

“Everything is about 10 minutes apart at least; it wasn’t very far apart, but they moved,” Andrus said. “I think the choices people made were great.”

She went on to explain that some of the popular restaurants and stores had to change their hours or close certain days mostly because of a persistent workforce crisis, but also “for their own sanity,” as business returned to downtown venues and in a big way, even amid the higher gas prices and skyrocketing inflation.

Pruhenski concurred. “It’s difficult to say if inflation has impacted tourism because it didn’t seem to impact the number of visitors,” he said. “But inflation is certainly impacting purchasing and project costs for the town, and housing challenges remain a high priority.”

Andrus agreed, noting that, with the inflating value of land and housing, people are struggling to find good, reasonably priced housing. Great Barrington and other outlying towns are hoping to find a solution because “people deserve clean, affordable housing in a good location.”

As summer draws to a close, another important and traditionally vibrant time begins for Great Barrington and the Southern Berkshires. The community has a number of events on tap to keep tourists and locals busy and intrigued. Cultural venues will go on with their events until the end of the fall foliage or until it gets too cold to hold events outdoors.

Betsy Andrus says events like Berkshire Busk! exposed the public to many different local artisans and performers.

Betsy Andrus says events like Berkshire Busk! exposed the public to many different local artisans and performers.

“Outdoor dining will continue until it gets too cold,” Andrus said. “I think the fall will not be as busy as the summer, but it will still be very busy.”

Coming up at the end of September is the Festival Latino, which is always very popular among tourists and locals. It features Latin American folkloric dance and music performances, language and cultural activities, artisans, and Latin cuisine vendors.

Meanwhile, the Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce is introducing its new video series. Great Barrington has a full menu of dining options, said Andrus, and if people want to see what the town has to offer, they can visit the “Chefs of the Berkshires” series and purchase one video for $10 or $60 for the entire series of 13 restaurants, a savings of more than 50%.

“It’s a way to show people that this is what’s going on in this area; some of it highlights the location, too,” Andrus said. “This whole series is to get people more acquainted with the area. And if they live here, we want to show them there is more than just the restaurant they’re used to going to — we want them to branch out.”

She noted that 50% of revenues generated by the program are given back to the restaurants to help them meet the considerable challenges of these times, including workforce issues, rising prices, and other lingering effects of COVID. “And I want to be able to hand them a big check.”

Another video series the chamber has introduced is “Tour the Berkshires,” a tour package that introduces people to recreation in the Berkshires. Visitors are able to book a weekend of activities if they live in the area or if they’re from out of town and need lodging.

“They’ll go through a whole weekend schedule: there’s yoga and stretching classes, Reiki, dinner at the breweries, renting bikes for a self-guided 20 mile ride, and hiking,” Andrus explained. “There’s a ton of stuff to do here. It’s a whole weekend of activities and food.”

 

Bottom Line

Andrus told BusinessWest that Great Barrington has long been a destination — for people from this state, neighboring New York, and even beyond. Visitors have been drawn to the different kinds of attractions and came knowing they could find old favorites as well as something new.

And that remains true today. Different venues, such as the Chesterwood museum, Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, St. James Place, and Barrington Public Theater all have their own schedules, and they’ll keep producing plays, musicals, and events through the end of the fall season.

It’s taken a while, and COVID has changed the landscape in some ways, but Great Barrington has its groove back.

 

Kailey Houle can be reached at [email protected]

Cannabis Special Coverage

Cannabis in Flux

Aaron Vega

Aaron Vega says cannabis has been a definite economic driver in Holyoke’s downtown and canal district.

 

According to the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), legal marijuana is now an annual $3 billion business in Massachusetts.

The communities that have embraced it from the beginning, like Holyoke, can attest to cannabis as an economic driver in terms of commercial real estate, jobs, and other opportunities. The city now has four dispensaries, three grow facilities, and a testing lab up and running, with dozens of other applications at various stages of the permitting process — a process, city Planning & Economic Development Director Aaron Vega said, that was always intended to be easy to navigate.

“This community voted in favor. The mayor was in favor. As a state representative, I was in favor. And we didn’t want to make it more difficult. It was challenging enough with the regulations coming down from the state. We saw this as an industry that could take over some vacant and underutilized buildings, and that’s what informed how we went forward.”

That has indeed occurred. “We’re very excited about the investment that has happened — tens of millions invested in these downtown buildings because of cannabis, and 500 jobs that didn’t exist three years ago,” Vega said, noting that the cannabis enterprises themselves aren’t an endgame, but a way to spur even more investment.

“What do you do with 500 people? You make sure they’re going to your concerts, going to your restaurants and events, utilizing your local food trucks. And then there’s the ancillary businesses to the cannabis industry; how do we lure them to the city and make it even more beneficial for companies to do business in Holyoke?”

Other cities and towns have, to varying degrees, told similar stories. But the host-community agreements they’ve put forward have not always been well-received, and that was one of several issues addressed last month by a multi-faceted cannabis bill passed overwhelmingly by the state Senate and House of Representatives and signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker.

“We saw this as an industry that could take over some vacant and underutilized buildings, and that’s what informed how we went forward.”

Among its main elements, the law clarifies the host-community agreement (HCA) process by authorizing the CCC to prioritize social-equity program businesses and economic-empowerment priority applicants for expedited review.

It also clarifies the scope of HCAs and adds new criteria, mandating that no host-community agreement can include a community impact fee that is beyond the business’s eighth year of operation, the community-impact fee must be reasonably related to the actual costs required to operate a cannabis business in a community, the CCC must review and approve each HCA as part of the license application and renewal process, and all host communities must establish procedures and policies to encourage full participation in the regulated marijuana industry by people from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement.

“Communities of color across our country have historically been criminalized, prosecuted, and left out of the conversation in regards to cannabis legalization,” state Sen. Adam Gomez said. “When cannabis was legalized in Massachusetts, those same communities continued to be barred from the conversation table and left behind, with historic barriers preventing them from growing small businesses in meaningful ways. The legislation passed by the legislature will remove those barriers.”

The law also expedites the expungement process, Gomez noted. For individuals seeking to expunge a record for previous offenses that are now decriminalized, the law requires the court to order the expungement of the record within 30 days of the request and expunge records for possession or distribution of marijuana based on the now-legal amount.

“It is incomprehensible that anyone who was charged with a marijuana-related offense still has that on their record in our state, especially when you can drive down the street to a dispensary to buy the same product that that person was arrested for,” Gomez said. “I was proud to support this legislation and can’t wait to see cannabis businesses run by BIPOC owners flourish as a result.”

 

Growing Pains

The law makes other major changes as well, including a clarification of the local social-consumption approval process.

The advent of what’s known as cannabis cafés will give renters, public housing tenants, and tourists a legal place to use a legal substance. Under this legislation, a city or town may allow for social consumption sites through the passage of a bylaw or ordinance.

The legislation also creates a trust fund to make grants and loans to social-equity program participants and economic-empowerment priority applicants, which will give entrepreneurs from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement better access to grants and loans to get their businesses off the ground.

In addition, 15% of the revenue collected from the sale of marijuana and marijuana products must be transferred to the Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund, which will be administered by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development in consultation with a newly created Cannabis Social Equity Advisory Board.

“It is incomprehensible that anyone who was charged with a marijuana-related offense still has that on their record in our state, especially when you can drive down the street to a dispensary to buy the same product that that person was arrested for.”

“This legislation will create a more equitable cannabis industry in the Commonwealth,” said state Sen. Jo Comerford, noting that lawmakers “approached this issue with expertise and compassion, and the resulting bill will bring more diversity and equity to this industry.”

House Speaker Ronald Mariano added that “the passage of this legislation will help to ensure that those who have been historically impacted by marijuana prohibition can find new opportunity in the emerging industry. This legislation will help to support folks who have faced generations of inequality secure the needed capital to launch a cannabis business.”

The loan fund highlights one of the challenges of starting a business that’s technically illegal under federal law. Although there have been rumblings that the U.S. Congress could move to decriminalize cannabis and open up traditional financing to such businesses, nothing has been done so far.

“It’s still a hard-money business,” said Tim Sheehan, chief Development officer for the city of Springfield, and that affects both entrepreneurs and property owners. “That’s challenging from a real-estate standpoint. If that were to change, it would provide a more stabilized financial underpinning for the industry itself, and obviously, that would translate into folks that have space feeling far more comfortable in terms of the security they have relative to leasing and everything else. It would be accepted in the mainstream financial market.”

While Springfield didn’t embrace cannabis in the unfettered way Holyoke did — the city has put forward two rounds of retail applications and one for a grow facility, but that project, by Page Cultivate LLC in East Springfield, was derailed by the City Council in May over a site-plan change and other concerns — many of its leaders recognize the economic value of the burgeoning industry.

“Once it was legalized, there was clearly a focus on it becoming an economic benefit for the city,” Sheehan said. “Much like when gaming was legalized, we looked to see what the economic potential of the cannabis industry would be relative to both city finances and economic impact in terms of the marketplace.

“Much like when gaming was legalized, we looked to see what the economic potential of the cannabis industry would be relative to both city finances and economic impact in terms of the marketplace.”

“Obviously, the industry has had an impact on storefront and warehouse space, and I would quantify that as a positive impact,” he went on, adding that it remains to be seen what kind of impact the cannabis trade will have on the surrounding residential real-estate market.

“Caution is the watchword. As an industry, it remains to be seen what the saturation point is, and I really think that needs to be factored in through the process with regard to how many of these establishments you’re going to allow, whether it be a grow facility or how many retail establishments you’re going to allow. There is a limited market.”

 

In the Weeds

The cannabis industry’s potential is still unknown, though the early results in terms of new businesses, tax revenues to communities, and jobs have been positive.

But Sheehan is right that no one really knows what the saturation point is, if there is one. And the Legislature’s sprawling cannabis bill last month was an admission that plenty about the permitting process — especially for traditionally disenfranchised communities — needs to be addressed.

As Senate President Karen Spilka put it, “I am thrilled we were able to reach a deal on this bill, which will take meaningful steps toward ensuring communities who have historically been harmed by marijuana criminalization can access resources to enter this industry.”

 

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Insurance

Water, Water Everywhere

By Peter Normand

 

According to a 2020 report from the First Year Foundation, there were 336,000 properties in Massachusetts alone that were at some level of risk for flooding. This number is 65% higher than the existing flood maps indicate.

The heavy rains of last summer and the claims that followed got me wondering what the future holds. We are beginning to feel the impacts of climate change in more severe and less predictable weather. How valid are our flood maps? What can property owners do to protect their property in an uncertain future? If you haven’t talked about flood insurance with your insurance agent yet, now is the time.

Banks require flood insurance on all properties that are located in a flood zone per existing flood maps. Why do they do this? Commercial and homeowners policies exclude flood as a cause of loss. Nearly all of my commercial insurance clients who have flood insurance have purchased it to satisfy a loan requirement. Nearly everyone else is rolling the dice — most stating that, since they aren’t in a flood zone, it’s not an issue. After a very wet summer of 2021, however, the conversation is changing, even if this summer has been drier.

Let’s start off by defining what a flood is. Floodsmart.gov notes that “flood insurance covers losses directly caused by flooding. In simple terms, a flood is an excess of water on land that is normally dry, affecting two or more acres of land or two or more properties.” Just because there is water in your basement doesn’t mean it’s a flood. In fact, water seeping into a foundation without the above definition being met would not be covered by flood insurance. When determining whether or not there is coverage, the cause of the flooding that damages your property does matter.

On the market side, there are more options than ever, with more carriers offering a flood product. This leads to more flexibility for our insureds. For example, some markets allow for multiple properties on a single policy, some carriers offer limits in excess of NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) limits to adequately insure the value of the property, there are replacement cost (RC) and actual cash value (ACV) valuations, and more competition has created market pressure on premiums, especially for properties outside of flood zones.

With changing weather patterns and other unknowns, it’s reassuring to know that there are options. If you haven’t considered flood insurance in the past, or have been putting it off, now is the time to talk to you insurance agent. There is an expanding market with options to meet your specific exposures and needs.

 

Peter Normand is a Commercial Lines account executive and RiSC consultant with Webber & Grinnell Insurance.

Guide to Senior Planning Special Coverage Special Publications

Preparing for Life After 65

When people think about strategizing for their senior years, they often see it as a downbeat task, one marked by growing incapacity, financial stress, and, well, dying.

That’s not what this guide is about, although it definitely contains plenty of information about what to do before that day comes. But the goal isn’t planning to die; it’s making sure you get all your plans in order — from where you or your loved ones will live to how finances will be distributed — so you don’t have to worry about it. You can, instead, enjoy life.

 

And that planning is an increasingly important task. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans age 65 and older rose from 35 million in 2000 — 12% of the population — to 56.1 million, or 17%. By 2030, the bureau estimates, more than 21% of U.S. residents, about 73.1 million, will have passed their 65th birthdays.

That’s a lot of people. And a lot of planning. And a lot of living left to enjoy.

Achieving your goals — and your desires for your loved ones — requires careful thought, and that’s where our annual Senior Planning Guide comes in. So let’s sort through some of the confusion and get those conversations — and the rest of your life — started.

 

Opinion

Editorial

 

It took a few years longer than it should have, but sports gambling finally seems to be a reality in the Bay State.

The Massachusetts Legislature recently approved a sports-betting bill, and Gov. Charlie Baker has signed it into law. If all goes well — something that doesn’t happen often in this state — systems should be in place for sports betting for later this year and certainly by the time the Super Bowl rolls around next February.

This news is cause for celebration in the state’s three casinos, which have been pushing hard for such a measure, and for good reason. Gaming revenues have certainly not been what they were projected to be nearly four years after MGM Springfield opened its doors to great pomp and circumstance. And the lack of sports betting has given gamblers one more reason to cross the border and go to facilities in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York. Sports betting seemed to always make sense as a way to help these casinos improve traffic, bring more revenue to the state, and add some jobs. But that didn’t stop the Legislature from doing what it does all too often: sit on its hands.

Indeed, state lawmakers tend to overthink these things, if that’s even the right term, and this leads to indecision. It happened with gaming for several years, and it happened with sports betting as well.

After four years of “painstaking work and research,” as state Sen. Eric Lesser called it, the Legislature was able to come to an agreement on a bill providing for both retail and mobile sports wagering, one that will allow betting on college sports, with some restrictions, and also comes with a number of consumer protections. These include a provision whereby, for online and mobile betting, bets cannot be linked to credit cards — a measure implemented to make sure consumers are wagering with funds on hand and not borrowing.

Projections of revenues vary, but the measure is expected to bring in more than $35 million annually. That’s not a huge number, but right now, it’s money that’s going elsewhere, and that the state could put to good use in areas ranging from workforce development to public health.

The state is once again late to the party. But late is better than never — or even later. v

 

Community Spotlight

Community Spotlight

 

Mayor William Reichelt

Mayor William Reichelt says West Springfield is making significant progress on many of the goals he set when first elected in 2015.

While the country will be celebrating its 250th birthday in 2026, West Springfield will mark that same milestone two years earlier.

And the planning for what will be a huge party is very much underway, said Mayor William Reichelt, noting that a committee has been put together, chairs of that board have been selected, and a dialogue will soon be launched with town residents to determine how, where, and in what ways they want to observe that birthday.

And while two years will go by quickly, especially with all this planning and execution to handle, this community that operates as a city but still calls itself a town could look much different by the time the big party kicks off.

Several of its major roadways, including Memorial Avenue and sections of Route 5, will be redone or in the process of being redone (hopefully the former, said the mayor as he crossed his fingers — figuratively, anyway) by then. There will be some new businesses on those stretches — Amherst Brewing is moving into the former Hofbrauhaus property, for example — and some of them well before 2024. And there may actually be some cannabis-related ventures in this town that has thus far said ‘no’ to this now-booming industry; a critical City Council vote on the matter took place on July 18, just after this issue of BusinessWest went to press, and Reichelt, who backed a measure to permit the licensing of such establishments, was confident that he had the requisite six votes for passage.

“Once I got into this, there was so much I wanted to do, and I quickly realized that nothing happens fast.”

“We’re in a much different place than we were four years ago, when it was 8-1 [against],” he said, adding that the measure would enable businesses to be located on large stretches of Riverdale Street, the preferred location among those in that industry.

And there is a chance, albeit a slight chance at this point, that the massive power-generating plant near the rotary at the Memorial Bridge may disappear from the landscape it has dominated for decades. Indeed, it has been decommissioned, and its owners are deciding what to do with the property.

“We’re in discussions now about what remediation will look like; I would like to see a clean site so another developer can do something with it, but we’re still in the talking stage,” Reichelt said, adding that the community is looking closely at what happened with a similar but larger property in Salem that is being redeveloped.

The renovated 95 Elm St., now known as Town Commons

The renovated 95 Elm St., now known as Town Commons, features an eclectic mix of businesses and will soon add a restaurant.

But enough about what might and might not happen over the next two years. For now, West Springfield and its mayor are making progress on many of the goals he set down when he was first elected in 2015, including infrastructure, new schools and additions to existing schools, attracting new businesses, and creating what he called a “walkable downtown” with plenty of attractions.

Early on, he said he wanted to create ‘another Northampton.’ “But people have this weird dislike of Northampton, for some reason, so now, we say we want it to be like West Hartford,” Reichelt noted, adding that his community is certainly moving in that direction with initiatives ranging from a walking trail and improved infrastructure along the historic town green to the reinvention of 95 Elm St.

Formerly home to United Bank and still known to many as the ‘United Bank building,’ the three-story office complex is now home to a mix of businesses, and a new restaurant will soon be added to that mix.

For this, the latest installment of its Community Spotlight series, BusinessWest turns its focus on West Springfield and the many forms of progress being seen there.

 

Party Planning

Returning to the subject of the 250th birthday party, Reichelt said the wheels are in motion for that celebration, and some pieces are starting to fall into place.

That list includes a special commemorative 250th birthday beer to be created by Two Weeks Notice Brewing, which set up shop in West Springfield several years ago and has established a firm presence in the community; no word yet on just what this brew will be or what it will be called.

Meanwhile, old documents and photos are being collected, and a commemorative history — a significant update to one produced for the 200th birthday in 1974 — is being planned, said Reichelt, adding that there is preliminary talk of staging an event similar to the Taste of West Springfield that was put on for many years by the community’s Rotary Club.

“We’re talking about bringing something like that back, maybe with a food truck festival on the common,” he said, reiterating that planning for the 250th is still very much in the early stages.

And while this planning continues, officials are making progress on a number of different fronts in the community, everything from the planning of infrastructure work on Memorial Avenue and Riverdale Street to determining how to spend roughly $8 million in ARPA funds (other infrastructure projects are at the top of that list) to contemplating what might be done if that massive power plant actually comes down.

Reflecting on that list, and his first six and half years in office, Reichelt, now one of the longest-serving mayors in the region, said he’s learned during his tenure that it often (always?) takes a long time to get something done, and, as a result, communities and those who lead them must be patient and perseverant.

“Once I got into this, there was so much I wanted to do, and I quickly realized that nothing happens fast,” he told BusinessWest. “Projects that I started talking about back in 2016 … we’re just starting to get funding for and breaking ground now.”

As an example, he pointed to the last remaining piece, the restaurant at 95 Elm St., something he’s been pursuing for years and an element he believes will be a nice compliment to what already exists on that street — a few restaurants, the Majestic Theatre, and a bagel shop already at 95 Elm — and make the area more of a destination.

Hofbrauhaus

At top, the town common now boasts new walking paths. Above, the former Hofbrauhaus property will become a new site for Amherst Brewing.

It’s also taken some time to make the planned improvements to the green area, which now boasts new traffic lights, improved intersections, and a half-mile loop for walking and other uses, said the mayor, adding that a similar upgrade is planned for Elm Street.

“We want to bring people downtown and have it be a spot where you can walk around, go to the theater, have dinner in a couple of different places … make a night of it,” he said. “We have great commercial corridors on Memorial Avenue and Riverdale, but there’s no real place for people in town to go; to have a walkable downtown would be nice. It’s nice to see come that come to fruition after six years.”

Meanwhile, there are ambitious plans on the table for improving the full length of Memorial Avenue, from the Route 5 rotary to the recently widened Morgan Sullivan Bridge. The $25 million, state-funded project is slated to commence next April, and it will take two years to complete.

Significant work is also planned for Route 5 (Riverdale Street) and specifically the stretch north of I-91, said Reichelt, adding that the broad goal is to redevelop that section of the street, which has always been far less popular with retailers than the stretch south of the highway.

“There’s this perception … businesses have no desire to be north of the I-91 overpass,” he said. “They all want to be between the overpass and East Elm connection, where are no vacancies.”

As for the aforementioned power plant, it is very early in the process of deciding what its fate will be, said Reichelt, adding that, if all goes well, the community could have 10 acres of land right off Route 5 and Memorial Avenue that could be redeveloped for a number of uses. There is a landfill next door, so there are some limitations, he noted, but industrial, commercial, and infrastructure opportunities exist, including a connection to the rotary so that motorists can go both north and south from Agawam Avenue.

 

What’s Down the Road

But much of the attention is now focused on cannabis-related businesses, that July 18 vote, and what will likely happen if that measure passes.

At present, the only business allowed in West Springfield for cannabis-related ventures is to advertise their products and services on billboards along the highways that run through the community. That will change, of course, if the measure passes, as the mayor predicts it will, and he expects West Side to be an attractive mailing address for such companies.

“We want to bring people downtown and have it be a spot where you can walk around, go to the theater, have dinner in a couple of different places … make a night of it. We have great commercial corridors on Memorial Avenue and Riverdale, but there’s no real place for people in town to go; to have a walkable downtown would be nice. It’s nice to see come that come to fruition after six years.”

Indeed, Reichelt said he no longer uses the phrase ‘crossroads of the region’ to describe his community, preferring ‘retail capital of Western Mass.,’ a nod to the many regional and national retail heavyweights — from Costco to Dick’s Sporting Goods to Home Depot — that have located stores in the community.

The traffic that drew those major retailers should also attract cannabis businesses and especially dispensaries, he added.

Reichelt noted that he believes that there is sufficient momentum to get the measure passed, and there may be more with the recent 3% increase in property taxes, the town’s first in several years. Indeed, he said the tax revenue generated from cannabis-related businesses and its potential to help prevent another such increase in rates may help incentivize the council.

“It’s four years later, and the landscape has really changed,” he said. “You hear a lot of the same legalization arguments that you heard back in 2016, but that argument was settled in 2016 — it’s legal in Massachusetts now. To think that it’s not in town is … not based in reality. There are signs on Riverdale and Westfield Street and Memorial Avenue pointing to the different places you can buy marijuana outside of town; look at the tax money that’s leaving here.”

While the July 18 date was one to circle, there’s another key date fast approaching — Sept. 16. That’s the kickoff to the Big E, which will take another big step this year to returning to normal — as in 2019 conditions.

The fair was canceled in 2020, and while it was staged in 2021, it did not have a full lineup of entertainment, said Eugene Cassidy, president and CEO of the Big E, adding that, for 2022, it will be all systems go.

Much of the entertainment has already been announced, he said, noting that Lynyrd Skynrd will close the fair this year. Meanwhile, there will be a number of new attractions and events — including an opportunity for fair attendees to communicate with those at the International Space Station — and even food items, including noodles, vegan offerings, and full-sized donuts.

Cassidy said advanced ticket sales are running well ahead of the pace for last year, which was a near-record year for the fair, and other strong years. “People don’t even know what what the fair is going to offer, but they’re already supporting it by buying tickets, sometimes nine months in advance of the event,” he told BusinessWest. “And that provides a great deal of emotional support for those of us who run the place because we know that our patrons care about the organization.”

But while projections are certainly good for this year, he will watch closely what happens at several other state and regional fairs set to open in the coming weeks.

Indeed, one wildcard could be gas prices, which, while they’re coming down, remain historically high and could deter some families from driving long distances for entertainment.

 

Bottom Line

Reflecting on why this city still calls itself a town, Reichelt recalled that the vote to change the charter and convert from town government to city government was close — as in very close.

“They decided when they wrote the town charter to maintain the ‘town’ name to maintain that town feel,” he said, adding that many people have approached him and said ‘Will, it doesn’t feel like a town anymore.’

Such sentiments lead him to believe that maybe, just maybe, by the time West Springfield turns 250, it will not only operate a city government, but call itself a city.

If so, that will be only one of many potentially significant changes that will take place between now and then in a community where there is always movement and the landscape is, well, a work in progress.

 

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

Community Spotlight

Community Spotlight

By Mark Morris

Karl Stinehart, left, and Russ Fox

Karl Stinehart, left, and Russ Fox say Southwick’s goal is preserve its high quality of life while also creating needed business tax revenue.

 

Southwick residents love the natural beauty and the many recreation choices their town offers but they also like reasonable tax rates.

Russell Fox, chair of the Southwick Select Board, said to accomplish both means business development must be part of the equation to ease the tax burden.

“It’s a balancing act that the Select Board takes very seriously,” said Fox, who has been a selectman off and on (mostly on) for more than 40 years. “I would not want to see families who have lived in town for generations say they can no longer afford to stay here.”

A balancing act indeed, as last year residents made it know that they will support some business development proposals, but not all. After the town’s planning board and select board had approved a $100 million project involving the online used car seller Carvana, residents expressed a number of concerns about the size of the project and its impact on the community.

The site where the Carvana project was proposed is a 90-acre parcel on College Highway near Tannery Road. After residents rejected Carvana, Karl Stinehart, chief administrative officer for Southwick said the owner of the property has since come up with a creative solution.

“The parcel will be broken into five lots,” Stinehart said. “We can now look to attract a retail store or a light manufacturer, something that won’t have the negative impact of a large facility.”

That’s the kind of progress that gets the attention of Eric Oulette, executive director of the Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s a great idea for them to split up that parcel to make it more attractive for smaller businesses,” Oulette said. Currently, 13 Southwick businesses belong to the Greater Westfield Chamber.

Stinehart pointed to the town’s tax rate of $16.98 per thousand for both residential and businesses as another incentive for economic development in Southwick. Oulette agreed.

“Southwick’s tax rate is competitive and should help the town to attract more business there,” Oulette said.

Overall, there are many types of development happening in this recreational town, both commercial and residential.

“It’s a balancing act that the Select Board takes very seriously. would not want to see families who have lived in town for generations say they can no longer afford to stay here.”

That list includes Faded Flowers LLC, which has been cleared to build a cannabis-growing facility. Stinehart said town voters have approved this facility, which will grow and process cannabis for commercial distribution. At the same time, voters have rejected hosting any retail dispensaries in town.

“We are in the early stages of this project,” Stinehart said. “They have done some site work but have not yet built the facility. Once complete there will be a lag time before the business is productive, so we are a long way from seeing any revenue for the town.”

Meanwhile, the Greens of Southwick is a development of custom-built homes on the land that was formerly Southwick Country Club. Located on both sides of College Highway, the west side of the development features 25 lots, with only two still available. More recently work began on the east side of the property where 38 lots are planned. Phase one of the east side has only three lots available.

On the other side of town, a 100-unit condominium project near the intersection of Depot Street and Powder Mill Road has also been approved.

“When those are built, the people who live there will have close access to the Rail Trail and can easily walk to the center of town,” said Stinehart.

While all these new homes will create additional tax revenue, residents who live on Lake Congamond are begrudgingly contributing more to the town’s tax coffers due to improvements to their current homes.

For several years, many of the modest homes on the shores of the lake are getting major renovations by their owners. As a result, these lakefront residences are now assessed at a higher tax rate than before the reno work.

“People are very upset with us about their increased taxes and we tell them how the state sets the tax rate, we have nothing to do with it,” said Fox.

For this, the latest installment of its Community Spotlight series, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at Southwick and the ongoing efforts to create that balance that Fox spoke of.

 

Work and Play

Calling the lake a tremendous asset to Southwick, Fox also noted that part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds the town received were used to install weir gates on Congamond.

“Weir gates help us address flood control and keep contaminated water from flowing into the lake,” Fox said. Every spring the town treats the lake with aluminum sulfate or “alum” to keep algae blooms down and improve water quality. Without the weir gates, contaminated water from flash floods would back up into the lake and negate the alum treatment. That affects the health of the lake, and the town budget, as Southwick spent $600,000 for the alum treatment.

Looking longer term, Fox said the town would like to dredge certain areas of the lake to keep it healthy.

“Lakes die naturally from sediment that keeps increasing over the years on the lakebed,” he explained. “Right now, there is an estimated six feet of sediment on the bottom of Lake Congamond.”

Because Congamond acts as a recharger for the aquifer, Fox is also hoping to start a dialogue with Westfield and West Springfield, as both communities get their water from the aquifer.

“It might be beneficial for all three towns to kick in to dredge the lake to make sure it keeps providing clean water,” he said.

Most of the $1.4 million Southwick received in its first allotment of ARPA funds was spent on a water project of a different sort, a new water pump and filtration station.

“This is a benefit to every water ratepayer and helps the town with improved water pressure,” said Fox.

Like nearly every town, Southwick has plenty of paving projects to tackle. Stinehart said town officials plan to use some of the ARPA money to fix roads in town but there’s a hitch. Budgets for road projects are set long before any paving happens.

“Because asphalt is petroleum-based, our paving projects now cost much more than we had planned,” Stinehart said. “The price inflation shortens the length of roads we can cover for that amount of money.”

As Southwick has an open-meeting form of government, big decisions are determined directly by residents.

“Everything we do must ultimately be approved by the voters at the Town Meeting,” said Fox. “I tell people all the time it’s the purest form of government.”

Stinehart explained several areas where voters have decided to make investments in their community.

“We continue to expand our paramedic EMS service which is run by the Fire Department,” he noted. “We’re adding more people so we can deliver that service at the highest level.”

Southwick is the lead community for a shared services grant to fund one full time and one part time nurse. In addition to Southwick, the nurses will cover Granville, Tolland, Blandford, Russell and Montgomery and serve in a visiting nurse-type of role. Stinehart explained that because of COVID, some people are still reluctant to go to medical facilities for routine treatment. With several towns taking part, the need for the service can be addressed at a more reasonable cost for everyone.

“It’s tough for one small community to budget for having a nurse on call, but with several towns paying it becomes more affordable for each town and it’s financially worthwhile for the nurse,” Stinehart said.

Southwick at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1770
Population: 9,502
Area: 31.7 square miles
County: Hampden
Residential Tax Rate: $17.59
Commercial Tax Rate: $17.59
Median Household Income: $52,296
Family Household Income: $64,456
Type of Government: Open Town Meeting; Select Board
Largest Employers: Big Y; Whalley Computer Associates; Southwick Regional School District
*Latest information available

When entering Southwick drivers are greeted with a welcome sign that brands the town as a “recreational community.” One notable recreation spot in town is The Wick 338, the motocross course that continues to grow in prominence in the sport. On July 9, the course will host the Southwick National Motocross Championship, which will be televised nationally on NBC.

“Based on ticket sales so far, the organizers are anticipating one of the largest events ever,” said Fox. “I hope they have good weather for it.”

The town also hosts two popular golf courses with The Ranch and Edgewood Country Club. Stinehart discussed a new golf game in town that has begun to take off: disc golf.

“The folks at the New England Disc Golf Center have told us people are playing hundreds of rounds of disc golf every week,” Stinehart said. “It’s a relatively new sport that’s gaining in popularity.”

Southwick is still basking in the glow of its 250th anniversary celebration. Though 2020 was the actual year of the anniversary, COVID forced the town to delay scheduled events and create new ones. In a “making lemonade out of lemons” kind of way, Fox remarked that they were able to celebrate the 250th for two years instead of just one.

“In 2020 we had a rolling parade where we drove floats into neighborhoods and then last year we held a traditional parade,” Stinehart said. “We’re still selling souvenirs from the event.”

 

Something to Celebrate

The anniversary celebration was so successful, the organizing committee had a surplus after all the costs were covered. That money will be used to make improvements to the town green and renovate the memorial to veterans who were Southwick residents.

“It’s a good use of the money and it will improve the municipal center of our community,” Stinehart said.

Reflecting on the anniversary, Fox said even with a two-year celebration, COVID prevented them from holding all the activities they would have liked to host.

At that point, Stinehart quipped, “Well, there will be a 275th anniversary.”

Women in Businesss

Strength in Numbers

By Kailey Houle

Andrea Marion

Andrea Marion says she’s surrounded by ‘bad-ass,’ powerful women at the Mill District.

Before the pandemic, Andréa Marion worked in the nonprofit world.

As it was for countless others, COVID became a period of reflection for her, a time to determine what was really important.

“I wasn’t happy and wanted a change,” she recalled. “I loved what I did, I loved working with and helping people, but I just knew it was time to see what else was out there and see what I can do. I have always loved fashion. I’ve always been into clothing, and style, and what it means to someone and how we represent ourselves with clothing.”

She took this passion for fashion, started a clothing boutique, and eventually took this fledgling venture to one of the pop-up events at the Mill District in North Amherst, where she hosted a table. Two months later, she is a far more permanent fixture at this home to a diverse mix of businesses, many of them owned and operated by women, including the mill itself, which was created by Cinda Jones, president of WD Cowls Inc., a winner of BusinessWest’s Forty Under 40, Alumni Achievement, and Top Entrepreneur awards.

“Being a woman in business at the Mill District has been very empowering.”

And Marion is rejoicing in both her success and business address.

“Being a woman in business at the Mill District has been very empowering,” said Marion, who sells mostly women’s clothing, but is hoping to expand her business to include male and non-binary clothing as well. “I have been a woman in business where I have been the only woman in the room, and that can be very lonely and tough. At the Mill District, I’m surrounded by so many bad-ass, powerful women and I feel like I’m at home. It sounds corny, but it’s so true. I couldn’t have picked a better spot.”

Marion is one of many who expressed similar sentiments — about both bad-ass, powerful women at the Mill District, and how that location has become a source of pride, inspiration, and a growing list of success stories. And about how much they like being part of all that.

Jessica Lavallee owns a Graze Craze location in North Amherst, a charcuterie-style takeout and delivery store that offers catering for events of all sizes. It was founded by a female Air Force veteran in Oklahoma, who recently franchised her stores through the United Franchise Group. The Amherst store is the first franchise in the Northeast, with the closest store to the North Amherst location being in Tennessee.

Lavallee is always looking for a new challenge and opportunities to give back to the community. “One of my favorite things to do is to entertain, and I love the concept of grazing; charcuterie boards fit into that perfectly,” she explained. “As a woman business owner, this gave me the opportunity to have a corporation for support, but make things my own at the same time. It gave me the opportunity to start a business in the food industry, which has always been something I have wanted to do.

For this issue, BusinessWest talked to several business owners and managers at the Mill District. Collectively, they touched on how they manage to inspire each other, but also about the many challenges and hurdles facing women in business today.

Location, Location, Location

Because women are the natural caregivers for their children, society often forgets that they are a person outside of motherhood. Once their children are graduated and out of the house, the mother often starts experiencing empty-nest syndrome. Another individual who works at the Mill District decided she wasn’t going to be that woman.

Kayla Diggins says she’s proud to be role model to young girls.

Kayla Diggins says she’s proud to be a role model to young girls.

Shannon Borrell is the store conductor of the General Store and Local Art Gallery in the Mill District. She explained that her job allows her to do many things around the store, such as a managerial role, building customer relations, putting up posts on social media, and event production for the art gallery.

The store has the nostalgic feel of an old-time general store. It sells a variety of items: household goods, gardening supplies, baking goods, children’s toys, art supplies, bulk candy by the pound, and more. The art gallery showcases art made by people within an hour of the store. Anyone that is interested can submit an online application, and once their work is approved, they can rent space by the linear foot. Artists keep 80% of the commissions, and the remaining 20% of the proceeds go back into the general store for classes that artists are interested in.

Borrell feels that now is the right time to focus on herself.

“I want to do something meaningful,” she said. “If you told me I was going to be working in retail and how you define that experience, I wouldn’t say that that was what I was doing. This space is more about creating community and bringing people together. It’s like retail with a mission — it’s art with an interest in community and getting people involved and an opportunity for more activity in this area.”

She said that working in the General Store and art gallery has challenged her in ways her previous vocation didn’t. As a para-educator, she wasn’t able to push the limit, as she called it. “There are no limitations in events or classes that the store wants to have, or how robust we want them to be.”

Another woman at the Mill District who is pushing the limits is Kayla Diggins. She owns an online clothing boutique named Harper James, selling women’s clothing, accessories, jewelry, and handbags.

Diggins went to school for fashion merchandising and has wanted to start her own business since her first job in the wholesale side of the fashion industry. Even though COVID-19 hit and she closed her shop for a few years, she felt it was time to reopen her boutique and give it another shot.

“It got to a point where I was thinking if I don’t try to do this now, I could regret this for the rest of my life,” she said. “In the beginning of the year, I hit the ground running — I got everything set up and started up again.”

Since starting her business, Diggins said she feels like she’s found her place in life despite the many ups and downs that are part and parcel to being an entrepreneur. Being in this season of life allows her to not only grow but be a mentor to her younger cousin who is following in her footsteps.

Jessica Lavallee with one of her charcuterie boards.

Jessica Lavallee with one of her charcuterie boards.

“It’s so empowering, and I’m extremely proud to tell people that I own my own business — it brings me a lot of pride, a lot of joy, and it is a really tough thing to do,” she said. “It has its ups and downs, but to be able to push forward and set new examples and standards is really exciting. My cousin is kind of in awe of what I’m doing. Being able to set that example and be a role model for someone that is younger and going through the same process means the world to me.”

Shauna Wallace, project manager for Cowls Building Supply and the Mill District General Store, and interim manager of the latter, also feels empowered in her position. Before coming to North Amherst, she worked for a construction company as the project manager and was one of the few women on the payroll.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for me because traditionally coming from the building and lumber industry, I didn’t get that,” she said, referring to the opportunity to work with, learn from, and become inspired by other women. “Now I am, and it is truly a gift to interact with so many wonderful women in the Mill District. It’s been a wonderful past year to be in a position of leadership and to be able to influence the culture of the store and the women I work with.”

“The most difficult piece is getting people to take you seriously. Often when people approach me about my business, I start talking about numbers and research or all of the effort I’ve put in to make this a successful venture.”

Alysia Bryant is starting her first business at the Mill District. Carefree Cakery is a bakery that focuses on taking care of people. All the ingredients used are fair trade, and all employees are paid a living wage. She started in the healthcare field before learning it wasn’t for her.

“I shifted my focus to ‘how can I use the skills that I have in order to help people?’” she said, “And that’s how I ended up here. I’ve always loved baking; I’ve always been good at making things, so I switched my major to business in college. I’ve truly built my life around this.”

While she enjoys working for herself and takes pride in her accomplishments, she acknowledged that it is “exhausting to be a woman in business.” Bryant just turned 28 and said she feels the need to prove herself to others when explaining she’s a business owner.

“The most difficult piece is getting people to take you seriously,” she said. “Often when people approach me about my business, I start talking about numbers and research or all of the effort I’ve put in to make this a successful venture.”

Progress Report

Bryant’s story reflects those of all the women we spoke to at the Mill District, as well as the other women business owners there, including Kim Rodrigo and Courtney D’Antonio, owners of the Lift Salon, and Mary Ellen Liacos, who owns Balanced Birch Studio.

Collectively, they speak of the desire to seek new challenges and to also find the strength and perseverance to overcome adversity.

They also speak to how there is now strength in numbers at this destination — not just in the number of “bad-ass women,” but also in the number of success stories they’re writing.

Opinion

Editorial

Area businesses already battling an intense workforce crisis received an additional dose of sobering news recently when MassINC released a report indicating that the Bay State could lose as much as 10% of its college-educated workforce by the end of the decade, a drop of roughly 129,000 people.

The projected decline stems from a number of factors, said the think tank, including a huge wave of retiring baby boomers, falling numbers of school-aged children in the state, and declining immigration. To sum it all up, there are fewer people going to college — certainly not enough to offset the number of boomers who are retiring — and fewer people coming into the state — from other countries and from other states, with the latter the result of the exploding cost of living in Massachusetts.

This confluence of factors leads to MassINC’s dire projections, which, if they come to be, will make an already narrow pipeline of qualified talent for jobs in a technology-focused region even smaller, threatening the health and vitality of many sectors.

There is not much anyone can do at this point about the birth rates that will lead to this projected talent drain, but there are some steps that can be taken to perhaps lessen the blow, starting with efforts to help more people attain a college degree.

This work starts with easing more people into college, especially through early-college programs in high schools, a step that the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has said is effective in increasing both college enrollment and completion rates, especially for low-income students and students of color.

Getting more people into and then through college is only part of the equation. As the cost of living in Massachusetts continues its upward movement, more college graduates will gravitate elsewhere. More housing, especially affordable housing, is one answer to this problem.

Indeed, a recent report on the state of U.S. housing released late last month by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies reveals that, to afford a typical house in Greater Boston, one will need to earn more than $180,000. The numbers for this region are roughly half — $96,000 for Pittsfield, $83,500 for Greenfield, and $87,412 for Springfield.

With those statistics in mind, the need for high-speed rail becomes even more evident. They show the importance of enabling someone who wants to work in Boston, Cambridge, or Worcester to live in the 413.

The new report from MassINC is certainly sobering. As anyone in business can tell you, a college education is increasingly necessary to succeed in today’s high-tech economy. This state, and this region, needs more people with degrees, not 129,000 fewer of them.

The task at hand is to bring more people into college and then through it, and to then make it possible for more people with degrees to afford to live here. Nothing about this assignment is easy, but the stakes are high, and something needs to be done.

Opinion

Editorial

At the midway point in what has been a historically difficult year for consumers, calls are growing increasingly louder for tax relief in the Commonwealth, and especially gas-tax relief.

And it’s time those pleas were answered.

Indeed, at a time when the state is essentially swimming in cash — the rainy-day fund saw $2 billion in capital gains tax collections between Feb. 1 and May 31 — it only makes sense for the state to bring from relief to those who are being adversely impacted by record-high prices at the pump.

And that’s …. just about everyone, from families looking to take vacations to businesses of all sizes just trying to carry on day-day activities. Prices have gone up in almost every category of consumer goods and services, but the huge increase in gas prices touches just about everyone, and it is having a very real impact.

That not-so-magic number of $5 per gallon was passed recently in the Bay State — and just about every other state in the country. In fact, it’s already well above that figure, which represents more than a number. For many, it’s a threshold. When gas hits that mark, people start to cut back.

They cut back on travel — which means fewer visits to the businesses, and there are many of them in this part of the state, in the tourism and hospitality sector that were already reeling from two and half years of pandemic and were looking toward 2022 as a return to something approaching normal.

Or … people and businesses cut back on other things, because they simply can’t cut back on travel.

And when they cut back, an economy that is already on the edge when it comes to heading into a recession, may just tip in the wrong direction.

If times were different and the state was not flush with cash, we could almost see a reason for not moving forward with some gas-tax relief — almost. But not in these times. Not when the state is far from hurting fr revenue and when many other states have seen the wisdom of providing residents with some form of gas-tax relief.

Not at a time when many businesses are finally starting to make it almost all the way back from the depths of the pandemic and need help, not another punch to the stomach.

Not at a time when many businesses have been forced to pass along price increases to consumers because of rising cost of labor, raw materials, and just about everything else, and now they’re faced with passing on more because of the rising cost of gasoline.

We’re not sure what a tax-gas holiday would cost the state when it comes to its credit rating or overall revenues. But at this critical time for the business community and the economy as a whole, the cost of not putting some relief in place would certainly be much higher.

It’s time for state lawmakers to do the right thing and provide the Commonwealth with some much-needed help at the pump. v

Community Spotlight

Community Spotlight

By Mark Morris

Jaclyn Stevenson

Jaclyn Stevenson says Shakespeare & Company has extended its season into the shoulder months surrounding summer.

 

Jennifer Nacht describes the beginning of the summer season in Lenox as a light switch that clicks on to a time of “happy mayhem.”

Unofficially, the season begins after Memorial Day weekend, but Nacht, executive director of the Lenox Chamber of Commerce, noted that the weekends leading up to the holiday were plenty busy, as well. In fact, as early as January she first began to see a vibrant summer on the horizon for Lenox.

Back then, Nacht had begun planning the Lenox Art Walk event scheduled for this month. Her attempt to reserve hotel rooms for artists who planned to travel to the event was more difficult than anticipated.

“I was able to find only three rooms after calling several different hotels back in January,” Nacht said. “They were all so apologetic and said that because of weddings and other events, every place was booked full.” 

This difficulty with finding rooms is just one indication of what promises to be a sizzling summer for Lenox, which, because of its tourism-based economy, faced innumerable challenges during the past two summers of COVID, and is poised for a breakout year.

Indeed, ‘healthy’ and ‘robust’ are terms that Marybeth Mitts, chair of the Lenox Select Board, uses to describe tourism in her community as high season, the three months of summer, commence.

“We’re excited to welcome the first full season of Tanglewood since the summer of 2019,” Mitts said, adding that, with a full summer of Boston Symphony Orchestra performances as well as a Popular Artists series, Tanglewood’s economic impact on Lenox and the Berkshires is considerable.

As one small snapshot, Nacht pointed out that James Taylor’s annual shows on July 3 and 4 will bring more than 36,000 people to town over just those two days.

“We’re excited to welcome the first full season of Tanglewood since the summer of 2019.”

Shakespeare and Company is another Lenox-based arts institution projecting not just a solid summer, but a solid year.

Indeed the theater company has extended its season into the shoulder months surrounding summer. Jaclyn Stevenson, director of marketing and communications, said the longer season is experimental, and will incorporate performances both indoors and outdoors.

Last year when COVID numbers stubbornly stayed high enough to threaten Shakespeare and Company’s ability to stage indoor plays, plans for an outdoor theatre that was a “someday” project, moved on to the fast track.

“The Spruce Theatre was constructed in 90 days in the summer of 2021,” Stevenson said. Modeled after the amphitheaters of ancient Greece, the stage rests in front of several tall spruce trees that are incorporated into the design.

“When the idea for it was presented in the context of COVID, it was much easier for everyone to understand the vision Artistic Director Allyn Burrows had for the theater,” added Stevenson.

While the company already had its outdoor Roman Garden Theatre that seats 280, the Spruce Theatre is a 500-seat facility with room to stage larger productions. In fact, the opening play for the Spruce Theatre was a production of King Lear featuring actor Christopher Lloyd in the title role.

“Having Christopher Lloyd here to christen the stage was a real coup,” Stevenson remembered. “It was the kind of fanfare we would not have been able to create otherwise in a COVID world.”

For this, the latest installment of its Ciommunity Spotlight series, BusinessWest looks at how Lenox is well-positioned to further rebound from COVID and take full advantage of what is expected to be a big year for the tourism sector — and communities that rely on such businesses to fuel their economy.

 

Art and Soul

The Art Walk is a good example of an event that was created at the height of the pandemic after the town was forced to cancel its annual Apple Squeeze event. As an alternative to the town-wide festival, Nacht and others developed the Art Walk and scheduled it for the late-September weekend when Apple Squeeze would have taken place.

The first Art Walk consisted of 40 artists set up in different areas of town known as “artist villages.” These villages were arranged to accommodate only small groups of people with an emphasis on foot-traffic flow to keep everyone moving through the exhibits.

The event received great feedback and has quickly become a tradition in Lenox. Now in its third year, Art Walk features spring and fall editions. Meanwhile, the Apple Squeeze has returned, and will take place on Sept. 24.

Jennifer Nacht

Jennifer Nacht says the summer is looking very promising for Lenox and its many tourism-related businesses.

“It’s very validating to see these events that we put together on the fly are now becoming established,” said Nacht, noting that Lenox Loves Music is another event created during the pandemic that has had staying power.

In Lenox, music and entertainment are an important part of the town’s identity. When Tanglewood, Shakespeare and Company and the other entertainment venues shut down at the height of COVID, the chamber began working with the Berkshire Music School on a series of Sunday afternoon concerts, and Lenox Loves Music was born.

“The new events really help the merchants,” Nacht said. “Our real goal is to hold events that bring people to Lenox who will eat in our restaurants and explore our shops.”

Like the Art Walk, the popularity of Lenox Loves Music has made it a keeper, with concerts every Friday in June and September.

“We run all these events in the shoulder months of May and June then September and October,” Nacht said. “Once our high season hits, beginning the weekend of July 4, we’re packed with visitors so we don’t need to entice tourists because they are already here.”

Shakespeare and Company is another organization that has extended its season to the shoulder months. In years past, the company would stage three plays by the Bard and three contemporary works. With the expanded season, it is staging two Shakespeare plays along with five or six modern plays.

“The mission of our company is based on the work of Shakespeare,” Stevenson said. “We choose our plays thoughtfully to reflect the spirit of the Bard and to show people new things.”

In addition to staging plays, the company also has a robust actor-training program and a nationally recognized theatre-in-education program.

Stevenson noted that a high-school-age theater group had recently performed Romeo and Juliet on the Spruce Theatre stage.

“The new events really help the merchants. Our real goal is to hold events that bring people to Lenox who will eat in our restaurants and explore our shops.”

“It was so cool to see students on the same stage where actors from all over the world will be performing Much Ado About Nothing in July,” Stevenson said. “You could see the joy of them being in that space.”

 

Setting the Stage

To accommodate all the tourists visiting these attractions, and locals as well, Lenox has a number of projects in the works to refurbish some of its municipal buildings while plans are in the works to build several new structures for town departments.

Beginning with Town Hall, Mitts said improvements are underway to replace the carpet and curtains in the auditorium as well as install a new roof and gold leaf on the Town Hall cupola.

“The town has capital plans within the next five years to begin construction on a new wastewater treatment plant, and a new public safety structure to include the Lenox police and fire departments,” Mitts said.

In addition to roof and chimney repairs to the library, Mitts said a key project involves updating the HVAC system.

“We’re installing a new interstitial system to manage ventilation in the building,” Mitts said. “This is to ensure proper storage of the library’s collections including rare books and ephemera of the region.”

Meanwhile, a different kind of refurbishing project is taking place at Mass Audubon Society’s Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, a popular destination for hikers at all levels. Last July a wind and rainstorm felled thousands of trees and severely damaged a boardwalk at Pike’s Pond. With $200, 000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds from the state and private donations, cleanup and renovations are in progress.

“Many of the trails and structures have been restored, however, there is on-going work to bring the facility back up to the full capacity it enjoyed in June 2021,” Mitts said.

As for the chamber of commerce, Nacht said that while the pandemic really challenged the agency in many different ways, it also presented an opportunity for the chamber to show what it could do to support efforts in town.

“People are now confident in the chamber and look to us for help with their events,” Nacht said offering the example of a proverbial ‘good problem to have’ at a recent farmers’ market.

“The farmers’ market brought so many people to town there weren’t enough lunch places for people,” Nacht said. The chamber arranged for a food truck run by someone who had worked in Lenox restaurants for 20 years. “He was excited to be back in Lenox and tells people he’s living his dream with his food truck.”

“It’s nice to feel that kind of energy coming back to Lenox,” she went on, adding that energy levels are expected to soar even higher during what is shaping up to be a very memorable summer.

Daily News

The most recent MassBenchmarks Board meeting showed a lapse in the economic recovery, as factors including the labor market, inflation, the Omicron variant, and the Ukraine conflict have fomented uncertainties. As a result, although Massachusetts continues to outperform the U.S. economy by most measures, there has been a notable slowdown in economic activity. 

In the first quarter of 2022, following six straight quarters of growth, both Massachusetts’ real gross state product and national real gross domestic product (GDP) saw reversals, declining by 1.0% and 1.4% percent at annual rates, respectively. This is a stark contrast to the last quarter of 2021 when annualized growth rates were 7.8% and 6.9%, respectively, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). 

In contrast to GDP, payroll employment in Massachusetts maintained its forward momentum and actually accelerated in the first quarter of 2022. Payroll employment, for example, increased at both the state and national levels, up 5.2% at an annual rate in Massachusetts in the first quarter, slightly higher than the 4.8% rate for the U.S. However, because Massachusetts experienced some of the most severe job losses and dramatic increases in unemployment rates in the nation during the early stages of the pandemic in 2020, employment remains 2.4% below peak (a deficit of 89,000 jobs). 

In contrast, the U.S. is now about 1.0% below its February 2020 jobs peak, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The divergence of GDP and employment growth trends during the first quarter indicates a large decline in productivity — more people are working but output is decreasing. The productivity decline could be driven by the fact that low-wage sectors (with below-average productivity) are currently leading job growth, and/or by other factors such as supply constraints that are limiting production, and labor hoarding. The latter possibility is consistent with the historically low level of layoffs. 

 

In terms of GDP growth, Massachusetts and other states have followed national trends more closely than in previous business cycles, according to the board. This is likely due to both regional economies becoming more diversified over time as industries are less localized as well as the pandemic having a large economic impact on all states. For example, COVID-related stimulus spending is promoting greater convergence among the states in general — allowing most to ride the same wave towards fiscal recovery. As such, the national economic situation, including its endemic risks, have a great bearing on the Massachusetts economy. 

Innovation and Startups

Cooking Up Sustainability

By Kailey Houle

 

UMass Amherst Dining is serving up a new dish. Sort of. It’s called sustainability.

The dining program, long ranked among the best in the country, if not the best, is adding a focus on foods and their carbon footprint to what has been a steady diet of information provided to students about how to make smart choices about what to eat each day.

Ken Toong

Ken Toong says that by serving more plant-based dishes, UMass Dining is helping students on campus reduce their carbon footprint.

UMass Amherst Dining is teaming up with MyEmissions, a food carbon-label company, to bring a sustainability factor to the table, an initiative that could be considered part of a broader, campus-wide focus on carbon footprints — and how to reduce them.

Indeed, in April, UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy proposed a plan to be a net-carbon zero university by 2032. And a survey of UMass students conducted this spring shows 75% believing their food choices impact the environment, and 76% believing it is important to reduce their carbon footprint. But they didn’t know where to begin.

“We started incorporating kelp on the menu — talk about a superfood; it’s a carbon sink, meaning it puts carbon back into the atmosphere. We partnered with a group in Maine that works with off-season lobstermen to grow kelp, and it’s going really well. We’ve done research and development on it, and again, we’re educating students that not only is kelp a superfood for your health, but it’s also a climate superfood.”

Low-carbon dining — an experience UMass is striving to perfect — refers to making food choices that have low greenhouse gas emissions associated with their life cycle. Examples of low-carbon foods include nuts, soy products, local vegetables, and dairy alternatives; high- carbon foods include beef, lamb, cheese, chocolate, and coffee. To combat higher emissions UMass sources its high carbon foods locally, and all of the low-carbon foods offered are grown locally and, in some cases, on campus.

“My team and I researched the issue and we have partnered with MyEmissions,” said Kathy Wicks, director of Sustainability at UMass Amherst. “They analyze each recipe for its carbon footprint. So we export our recipe, they analyze it, and then they send it back to us so we can put it on the menu identifiers and on the app.”

Elaborating, Wicks said that such analysis involves giving a rating — A through E, with A being the highest, or best grade — to each individual recipe based on its carbon footprint. A carbon footprint, as it relates to food, is the amount of carbon emissions, methane, or carbon dioxide involved in the food’s production. It takes into account the life cycle of whatever one is measuring, its land use, processing, transportation, and packaging. UMass has been able to reduce some of its carbon emissions already by partnering with local farmers and facilities to feed their students.

MyEmissions has worked with European restaurants to help them reduce their carbon footprint, but UMass Amherst Dining is the first university program in the country to be introducing an initiative like this. And as an anchor institution in the region and a recognized leader and innovator among dining programs, UMass is looking to tell a story others will follow.

“Yeah it’s delightful that we did it first, but it’s a better feeling knowing we can help our students make a better choice,” said Ken Toong, executive director of Auxiliary Enterprises at UMass Amherst, which oversees the dining program. “Food matters and I think this is an important thing for the UMass community.”

Wicks agreed, and noted that through this new initiative, the university hopes to better inform students about foods and their impact on the planet and perhaps inspire them to consider options — like kelp.

“We started incorporating kelp on the menu — talk about a superfood; it’s a carbon sink, meaning it puts carbon back into the atmosphere,” she explained. “We partnered with a group in Maine that works with off-season lobstermen to grow kelp, and it’s going really well. We’ve done research and development on it, and again, we’re educating students that not only is kelp a superfood for your health, but it’s also a climate superfood.”

Overall, plant-forward dining, and that includes kelp, helps to reduce the overall carbon footprint. Low-carbon foods are able to be grown, prepared, sourced, processed, and transported in ways that emit minimal greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. Food production in the United States makes up 20% of overall greenhouse gasses and globally it’s about 30%. UMass Dining works with local fair-trade-certified farmers and rely on permaculture gardens to source their meals.

Kathy Wicks

Kathy Wicks says educating students on their food choices gives them the ability to take action to help the planet.

“We’ve been working with our local partners for a long time, we also work closely with companies around their practices and how they relate to sustainability,” Wicks said. “And this is a way we can help students practice everyday climate action with every food choice that they make.”

Wicks and others we spoke with stressed repeatedly that they are not trying to tell students what to eat. Rather, they are providing information that will help them make smart choices about what they might want to eat — information that goes beyond calories and ingredients and dives into a food’s overall impact on the planet

“We play a role in educating them on food literacy, but we also love to talk about food,” said Wicks. “We added this to the conversation because it is top of mind for so many people and the campus community as a whole.”

Carbon-use identifiers will be added to each menu, along with previous identifiers for allergies, ingredients, sustainability, plant-based, and locality.

“We have a very comprehensive menu system — we have identifiers for allergies, ingredients, and now they can assess it through the apps or on signs,” said Toong. “We just add it on the carbon calculator and put the rating on the menu.”

Toong said the Amherst campus is perhaps more diverse than ever, with many students, including those who are Asian, Latin, and Indian students seeking authentic cuisine that is mostly plant-based. More than 70% of the school’s menu items are already plant based, catering to vegetarians, vegans, and those with a more plant-driven diet.

“We’ve been working with our local partners for a long time, we also work closely with companies around their practices and how they relate to sustainability. And this is a way we can help students practice everyday climate action with every food choice that they make.”

“We know that plant-forward meals are going to be a trend; there is still meat, but smaller portions,” said Toong. “We only give three-to four-ounce red meat portions, and same thing with chicken. We’re selling more seafood and more plant-based dishes. This has really helped us make the decision to start the program.

“We’re not saying ‘don’t eat red meat,’ — we’re just suggesting smaller portion sizes,” he went on. “We don’t tell them what to eat — we provide them with information. But we want to promote more than just food, we want to promote culture and cuisine. Our goal is to work with students and the community to try to make the world a better place. We can do it by working together.”

Those we spoke with said the partnership with MyEmissions is merely another step in efforts to promote sustainability. They stressed the need to back up the information being provided with conversation about how to make smart choices.

“We’re not just going to put the information up there — we’re going to continue dialogue with our students about it and show them and give them tips that low-carbon dining is as easy as A, B, C,” said Wicks. “We’ve been dedicated to healthy, sustainable, delicious food for a long time. We always want to do more to enhance the student experience.

“We listen closely to what the students have to say,” she went on. “We listen closely to what they’re concerned about and what they are interested in and what their values are… the entire campus’ sustainability and the current issues with climate change are at the top of mind for everybody. So our expertise is food and customer service — that’s the area we want to do more. We know it has an impact on our environment.”

By making simple changes like trying out some new A-Rated dishes, anyone can help lower the carbon footprint — and those at UMass Dining know small changes like that can make a huge difference.

Innovation and Startups Special Coverage

Celebrating Innovation

By Julie Rivers

The University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute (UMDI) turned 50 in 2021. It was a milestone, like many, that was marked in quiet fashion, and in this case, very quiet, because of the pandemic.

The actual celebration, in the form of an anniversary gala, came this year — May 3, to be precise. More than 150 people attended the event at the UMass Club in Boston, a gathering that offered UMDI and its supporters the long-awaited chance to reconnect, meet new people, and celebrate.

And there was, and is, much to celebrate.

Indeed, charged with social service, economic development, and community engagement, the Donahue Institute interfaces with many aspects of life in Massachusetts and beyond. In fact, UMDI has received global recognition for its economic research, program-evaluation capabilities, and workforce and educational initiatives.

Anticipating almost $25 million in revenues for fiscal year 2022, UMDI has about 175 employees with staff across the country, including all six New England states, Southern California, and Arizona. UMDI operates like a consulting firm, with 98% of its revenues being self-generated.

At the gala, recently appointed Executive Director Johan Uvin offered what amounted to a state-of-UMDI address, and in a Zoom call with BusinessWest that involved several leaders of the institute, he did the same, highlighting what’s changed over the years and, perhaps more importantly, what hasn’t for this vital resource.

“As someone coming in from the outside, this is a solid model — it’s not broken,” he said of the institute’s method of operation. “The Donahue Institute has the autonomy and intellectual freedom to pursue work that is meaningful to society but that also aligns with its mission and capabilities.”

Over the years, that work, has come in a variety of forms, including everything from housing to the national Census; economic data and ways to measure it, to office automation. And the institute’s work has often to led to changes in how things are done and how issues are addressed.

Johan Uvin addresses attendees

Johan Uvin addresses attendees at the recent gala marking the Donahue Institute’s 50th anniversary.

Slicing through it all, Mark Melnik, director of UMDI’s Economic and Public Policy Group, used terms not often applied to such an agency.

“We’re a dynamic organization, especially for a public-service institute,” he told BusinessWest. “While entrepreneurial mode can be exhausting, it allows us to push corners.”

This unique blend of public service and entrepreneurship provides the institute to recognize and seize what he called “opportunities that just make sense.”

For this issue and its focus on innovation, BusinessWest looks at these opportunities while reviewing the institute’s first 50 years of work and asking UMDI’s leaders what will likely come next.

 

History Lessons

In the beginning, the Donahue Institute focused on providing consulting services to state and local governments. Named for former president of the Massachusetts State Senate, the late Maurice A. Donahue, UMDI branched out in the mid-1980s by helping clients in the corporate and nonprofit sectors.

According to J. Lynn Griesemer, who served with UMDI for 31 years, including several as president, and still acts as a senior advisor, a breakthrough assignment in the early days of the institute was to assess how to most effectively introduce office automation into workplaces. While automation is incontrovertible today, back in the paper-laden manual task days of 1970s office life, the project was just one of many groundbreaking concepts the institute would help launch.

Another early assignment that would shape the future of the institute involved improving floor operations at the General Motors assembly plant in Framingham. However, while the project was underway, the plant began laying off shifts — but UMDI was already there as an implant that was well-positioned to lend a hand. Shifting focus, the institute helped the newly dislocated workers create resumes, get additional education, and ultimately find jobs or even start businesses of their own. Through this fortuitous timing, the institute quickly became the largest services provider to dislocated workers in the Commonwealth.

Donahue Institute

From left, former director of the Donahue Institute Eric Heller, former deputy director John Klenakis, former director Lynn Griesemer, Director Johan Uvin, and Associate Director Carol Anne McGowan

The federal government’s Department of Defense would then present the institute with an opportunity to help make systems uniform across military branches. This project allowed UMDI to develop the national credibility to successfully bid on the Head Start program, one of its core initiatives to this day.

From there, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld asked the UMass President’s Office to assist with an economic development initiative for the state. With the help of economic experts from across the UMass campus, UMDI worked with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston to forge the MassBenchmarks project. To this day, MassBenchmarks assesses the Massachusetts economy through reports and analyses that it then produces and releases twice per year in journal form.  

These early projects laid the groundwork for UMDI to get approved as a vendor by the federal government’s General Services Administration (GSA). This designation allows the institute to bypass the lengthy bidding process usually required to win large federal contracts. 

Indeed, the institute’s keen eye for evaluating opportunities and strategically selecting those that will open doors has built the solid foundation it now stands on.

Today, the Donahue Institute is comprised of 10 business units. However, despite the ever-growing diversification of its core capabilities, a vibrant and robust research component remains at the backbone. This includes both UMDI’s Applied Research and Program Evaluation unit and its Economic and Public Policy Research group, led by Melnik.

This group operates as a project-oriented consulting firm, much like a think tank, bringing academic expertise and methods to real-world social problems. The group works with demographic, labor market, and economic data to help state and municipal governments, planning agencies, and nonprofits guide broad public policy discussions.

“Housing is the most central public policy question when we talk about Massachusetts.”

One current project examines how to leverage new apprenticeship models to minimize employee retention challenges. Another potentially groundbreaking study involves using data gathered for COVID-related purposes to develop new and more affordable ways of providing healthcare services to consumers instead of funneling people into highly complex systems that they have to navigate on their own.

A core assignment for Melnik’s group is its work with the Secretary of the Commonwealth preparing for census enumeration, which is the basis for federal funding allocation and congressional seats. With help from UMDI’s population- estimates program, the state’s census data is head of class in the nation. This is especially noteworthy since census data is relied upon heavily for resource allocations and predicting where jobs will be. It also informs decisions around population projections used by the MassDOT and Mass. School Building Authority for school district planning.

The group’s portfolio also includes a two-phase initiative with Way Finders that uses Greater Springfield as a case study on housing market affordability. With a focus on upward mobility and wealth creation, the study seeks to answer what it’s like for low- to moderate-income families to live in a high-cost state.

“Wages are so much lower in the Pioneer Valley that more than 54% of renters are housing cost-burdened,” Melnik says. Additionally, the majority of those burdened are people of color.

“Housing is the most central public policy question when we talk about Massachusetts,” he explains. This is because it tells the story needed to inform public policy, including the future of transportation.  

Another of the institute’s long-term projects is the Head Start program, which it has been involved with since 2003.

UMDI’s New England Head Start Training and Technical Assistance group is co-directed by Rosario Dominguez, M.P.A. Dominguez says that when people think of the Head Start program, early childhood education is often the only thing that comes to mind. However, that barely scratches the surface of what the program does, as it begins at pregnancy and continues to support families through college.

With this long-term intervention approach, the program addresses intergenerational poverty by using what goes on in the classroom as a lens for examining how families can reach their financial goals, ultimately strengthening entire communities. Through the partnerships it forms, the program has the reach to solve issues much larger in scale than early childhood development, including informing policies that move social equity and upward mobility forward by helping education and social service organizations improve their systems.  

Beyond its regional and national footprints, Ken LeBlond, Marketing Communications manager, said UMDI also handles international work. Funded by the United States Department of State, the institute has contributed to economic mobility at the global level since 2004.

This includes its exchange program in which groups of 20-30 people from about 60 countries, such as Argentina, Pakistan, and Eastern Europe, come to Western Massachusetts each summer. The groups travel the region engaging in active learning, helping at the Amherst food bank and senior center, and working on river cleanup projects.

 

A Look Ahead

In August 2021, the Donahue Institute welcomed Uvin as its executive director. Uvin had previously served as assistant secretary of Education under the Obama Administration. Working alongside Associate Director Carol Anne McGowan, Uvin holds the distinction of being the institute’s first executive director to be hired externally.

When asked what is ahead for UMDI, Uvin talked about alternative models for providing health care and exploring different educational models in challenged communities to lift entire neighborhoods through training and interventions.

Additionally, Uvin is interested in looking at both the supply and demand sides of regional economies to shape how employers and individuals work together to create wealth.

He explained that the engagement process might begin with going into neighborhoods and asking, ‘what are your aspirations?’ This is important because, according to Uvin, “we are moving headlong into a labor shortage with the babyboomers retiring,” making it critical to have intentional conversations around economic development across many different populations.

While this may be a current focus for UMDI, these issues are not new to the Pioneer Valley, where economists and policymakers have been wrestling with similar challenges for decades. Uvin says that while high-tech industry sectors have grown across the state, it has not been an equitable geographic or demographic spread, with Gateway cities such as Springfield and Holyoke — where nearly half of the region’s minority population lives — being left behind.

Part of Uvin’s vision for the future is to explore work in sectors such as life sciences, which play a key role in the success of Central Massachusetts’ biotech manufacturing and Greater Boston’s R&D and lab-based growth.

This, he says, would involve lifting up underserved communities, which is critical because, on the business side, there are simply not enough workers to grow unless we find ways to include all populations. Representation of people of color in the best-paying jobs of the higher-tech sectors lags severely. In terms of where UMDI is at this point in contributing to solving inequities that plague underserved populations, he says they are in the discovery phase, talking to others on the grassroots level.     

As for the future, the institute is positioned to make great strides. With an executive director from the outside, a new perspective brought on by the COVID pandemic, and an impressive 50 years of success to build from, the institute is at a nexus for bringing widespread change to the communities it serves.

“It’s an exciting time for reflection and renewal — to articulate what has happened, organically anyway, through the COVID crisis, which is the discourse around social equity and social mobility,” said Melnik. “This has been part of our work for a while now and has bubbled up even more.”

In reflecting upon how the institute has evolved over the past fifty years, Uvin and others said it is also important to highlight what hasn’t changed, especially the institute’s model and entrepreneurial approach to its work.

Dominguez adds that what was once called public service has evolved into economic mobility and social equity.

“Although we are further defining what we do, our core values will always be the same,” she said. “How can our work impact communities in need? That’s the core — and that won’t change.” 

Uvin concludes, “we’re not done evolving. COVID revealed what didn’t make sense, and business must respond.” Offering employee support, childcare, mental-health services, and other perks will be integral.

Perhaps what will carry the Donahue Institute forward another 50 years will be that which has stayed the same — a solid culture, a public service-focused mission, and the keen ability to find opportunities that align with core values while also having the potential to open doors.

Special Coverage Technology

Making IT Happen

By Mark Morris

Mike Sheil

Mike Sheil, president, Whalley Computer Associates

Mike Sheil says he enjoys his work because his business — information technology — is always changing. And he acknowledges that this is an understatement, as recent events have shown.

Sheil, president of Whalley Computer Associates in Southwick, began his career with the computer reseller right after graduating from North Adams State College, now Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. After four years, he left for a medical device company where he stayed for another four years. Sheil returned to Whalley 24 years ago and rose through the sales ranks until being named president in June 2020.

His relatively new position comes with a lengthy job description, but, overall, he is charged with authoring the next chapters in what has become a long-term success story — a company that has grown exponentially from its humble roots over the past 43 years because of its ability to adapt to that constant change he mentioned.

The past two years, dominated in every way imaginable by the COVID-19 pandemic, provide a dramatic example of the company’s ability to respond to change, and, in many respects, lead clients through it.

“Before COVID you would get a quote, get a PO, order the product, it comes within a week and we can install it the next week. If we can get back to that type of normal business environment, I believe our company will experience tremendous growth.”

Indeed, a banner hanging in the production area reminds employees that, when in doubt, they are to do what’s right for the customer, the company, and the individual. This clear guidance turned out to be valuable when COVID hit and flooded Whalley with sudden demands for products and assistance. With millions of employees suddenly leaving the office to work from home, Whalley clients needed the resources to make that happen.

“We helped companies with thousands of workers to get their folks set up at home,” Sheil recalled. “Some needed monitors and docking stations, while others sought upgrades to their data center because so many more people were tapping into their bandwidth.”

In one instance, a higher education client was looking for 400 laptops to outfit staff members who had been sent home to work.

“I received the request on a Saturday,” Sheil recalled. A colleague found the product, provided a quote for what it would cost, and sent it to the client. “For the first time in my career, I received a purchase order from a public university on a Sunday.” By Monday afternoon, 400 laptops were shipped to the university.

Whalley Computer Associates’ new building

Mike Sheil, left, says Whalley Computer Associates’ new building will allow the company to better serve its clients.

Looking ahead, Sheil said Whalley will soon begin to grow its physical presence with a new 84,000-square-foot building next to its current headquarters in Southwick. Plans call for locating the OEM division in the new space as well as expanding warehouse storage and improving delivery options.

“The new building allows us to go to our clients and let them know we can do even more for them, so that’s exciting,” Sheil said. “This is an opportunity to grow our business in North America while showing our commitment to Southwick and Western Mass.”

For this issue and its focus on technology, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at Whalley’s long and intriguing history, and at what’s next for a business that helps its clients get it — and IT.

 

Taking Big Bytes

Tracing that history, Sheil noted that, in the early 1970s, Agawam math teacher John Whalley purchased a small software consulting firm that had a few clients. Working out of his basement after school and during the summer months, Whalley began to add customers, and by 1979 established Whalley Computer Associates.

By 1984 he moved the business out of the basement and in 1985, left teaching to concentrate on growing his company. Whalley is now CEO of the company, which is located in a 62,500-square-foot state-of-the-art building where 200 employees provide products and services to more than 20,000 customers around the world.

Whalley customers range from small businesses to corporations, as well as educational institutions and healthcare organizations. Clients tell Whalley representatives what challenges they need to address in their computer systems. Whalley then orders the product, configures it to fit the client’s needs, then delivers and installs the product at the client’s site. There are other resellers who simply order the product and send it directly to the client, who usually don’t have the space to handle a computer system shipment. Sheil said Whalley is different because it takes a hands-on approach.

“Once we receive the product it’s completely handled by Whalley employees,” Sheil said. “From the engineers and technicians who configure the products, to the people who drive our trucks and install the systems, everyone has a vested interest in doing it right.”

And during the pandemic, the company’s resolve to do it right was certainly tested, a test Sheil said it has passed.

“COVID and supply chain issues have been challenging, yet we experienced growth during that period,” he told BusinessWest. “It’s all thanks to our people who were flexible and willing to respond to all these requests.”

The OEM division of Whalley provides custom design of technology systems for clients. When COVID hit and a major customer temporarily shut down, it affected several employees who worked directly with that customer. Instead of laying off those employees, they were sent home with a laptop and a project to work on to benefit the company.

Heather Kies was given the assignment to plan several events for the company. A project manager with OEM, Kies also had a marketing background and enjoyed getting back into this area. She handled the assignment so well, Sheil promoted Kies to Marketing Manager in January and asked her to run the company’s new marketing department, which previously existed only informally as part of business development.

Whalley Computer Associates has a long track record

Mike Sheil says Whalley Computer Associates has a long track record of adapting to change and being nimble in its efforts to serve clients.

These days Kies is working on various company events, including preparations for a major tech conference that takes place in December.

“I’m also busy getting the word out on who we are so people understand all the services we can provide,” Kies said.

While the height of COVID brought unspeakable horrors, it also forced companies to think differently about how to stay in business and meet customer needs. Sheil is one of many who believes that making the pivot and finding new ways to get the job done is a silver lining to the dark cloud that has been with us for more than two years.

“When COVID hit we had to patch different products together because we couldn’t get the materials we wanted,” Sheil said. “As a result, our people figured out how to get clients what they need despite supply chain issues.”

One of the most profound changes since COVID is the growth in hiring people who work far away from the company’s headquarters.

“Since the pandemic, we’ve brought on new employees in Tennessee, Florida, and Texas,”
Sheil noted. “We can now hire folks out of the region to grow our reach.” Whalley won a recent contract in Pennsylvania and is seeking a salesperson for that area.

“This makes sense for us because these folks live there, they know the area and we can support them from here.”

Whalley offers clients different options to store data on the cloud. Sheil explained some clients want to store all their data remotely in the cloud, others choose to split between the cloud and on-premise servers, while other clients prefer to keep their on-premise storage. Having expertise in cloud storage has helped Whalley clients get around some supply chain issues.

“When clients order a storage device and then learn it will be up to six months before they see it, we can offer them cloud storage while they wait,” Sheil said. “When their device finally arrives, they can take it off the cloud. It gives them flexibility.”

In addition to shipping products out the door, Whalley has seen growth in its managed- services area, which Sheil explained as the first line of defense for the client.

“With remote workers logging in at all hours of the day, internal IT staffs are straight out keeping their systems going,” Sheil said. “From our data center, our managed services staff may see a problem developing before it actually becomes a problem.” Using the example of a defective hard drive, Sheil said his staff would notify the client’s IT director and immediately replace the device.

“In many cases, before the client is even aware of a potential issue, there’s an overnight envelope on its way with a new hard drive,” Sheil said. “In this way we can be an extra set of eyes for them.”

Security is an area that continues to grow and remains essential.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in the products we sell for cyber security,” Sheil said. “We also provide knowledge to our clients so they can prevent ransomware attacks and other threats.”

 

Screen Test

When he looks to the future, Sheil admits that as a sales professional for 34 years, he always sees the glass as half full. After Whalley found success despite a pandemic and a supply chain crunch that continues, he believes the company is now poised for explosive growth.

“Before COVID you would get a quote, get a PO, order the product, it comes within a week and we can install it the next week,” Sheil said. “If we can get back to that type of normal business environment, I believe our company will experience tremendous growth.”

In seven years, the company will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Sheil said he’s excited about the upcoming anniversary while he reflected on how far Whalley has come.

“It’s good to know that we’re a company where you can stay more than 30 years and have a career,” he said. “We want to keep on growing our business while at the same time remain a great place to work in the future.” u

Daily News

CHICOPEEInsa, a grower and retailer of medical and adult-use cannabis in Massachusetts, announced the hiring of three new employees who will play key roles in helping propel the Company forward in the burgeoning cannabis industry. 

Michael Bird has been named chief people officer, Nicole Constant joins as brand director, and Kate Nelson will hold the role of director of Digital Experience. 

 

“We are thrilled to welcome Nicole, Michael, and Kate to our team at Insa,” said Pete Gallagher, Insa co-founder. “They each have valuable expertise and deep knowledge in their respective areas. Their hard-work, insights, and problem-solving abilities will be critical in growing the Insa brand, helping the Company meet its objectives, and in helping bring high-quality cannabis to many more Insa customers.” 

 

Bird brings significant human resources experience to the team having worked in the field for almost 30 years. Bird started in Human Resources at the Yankee Candle Company as an Employment Recruiter in 1995 when the company was owned and operated by the founder, Mike Kittredge, had 700 employees, and operated 27 retail stores. As Yankee Candle grew, so did Bird’s career. He advanced to hold a variety of positions within HR at Yankee Candle, including serving as the HR director of North American Operations where he led a team of HR business partners serving all corporate functions, with more than 5,000 employees and 500 retail stores. He went on to join The East Coast Tile Group in 2017, a family owned and operated tile importing and multi-channel tile distributor as vice president of Human Resources. 

Constant brings more than 10 years of CPG experience to the rapidly growing cannabis industry. Prior to joining Insa, she was at Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., where she led innovation for the cooperative’s Foods Business Unit, which includes the Craisins® brand. Prior to that, Constant led the new Accelerator team within Ocean Spray’s Innovation Hub. In this role, she took an entrepreneurial approach to building disruptive innovation from within.  

She is a strong believer in the medical benefits of cannabis and the quality and craftsmanship of Insa’s product portfolio. In her new role, she will be leading brand expansion and development as well as strategic planning within new and existing markets.  

In the newly created role as director of Digital Experience, Nelson will lead the creation of a full digital experience in-store and online that puts customers first and offers them seamless ways to make purchases, communicate with customer service, interact with the brand across social, SMS, email, benefit from Insa’s loyalty programs, and educate themselves on adult and medical-use cannabis products. 

She joins Insa from Vista Outdoor, a publicly traded company who owns over 40 outdoor and action sports brands, where she created loyalty programs and digital marketing strategies leveraged across their portfolio. Prior to Vista Outdoor, Nelson worked at DEG Digital, a digital marketing agency where she created digital marketing strategies for premier brands such as Walmart, PepsiCo Brands, and AMC Theaters. 

Daily News


Gov. Charlie Baker has agreed that the state will pay $56 million to the families of veterans who contracted COVID-19 at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in the spring of 2020, one of the nation’s worst outbreaks of the virus. 

Families of 84 veterans who died from COVID will each receive a minimum of $400,000, with an average payment of $500,000, according to lawyers who brought the federal lawsuit in July 2020. The lawsuit on the veterans’ behalf was filed in July 2020, arguing that the Commonwealth “failed in its promise and obligation to care for those veterans.” 

Gov. Baker plans to file legislation seeking $56 million for the claims fund in the coming weeks, according to a statement from his office. 

“No amount of money can bring back the veterans who died or erase the pain and suffering that this tragedy needlessly caused those veterans and their families,” said Thomas Lesser, who represented the families, along with partner Michael Aleo, in a statement. “But justice required that those wrongs not go unaddressed. This settlement recognizes that the tragedy was preventable and never should have happened.” 

Daily News


The state Senate on Thursday passed a bill that would legalize sports betting in the Commonwealth, but prohibit wagering on college sports. 

The legislation was narrower than the version the House passed last summer, which allowed for betting on both professional and college sports.  

If signed into law, the new gambling program would bring in a projected $35 million in annual revenue to the state, according to Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michel Rodrigues. 

Passage of the measure sets up negotiation between the two chambers before the end of the formal session in July. 

The Senate measure prohibits the use of credit cards to place bets, allows people to set limits on how much money, and how often, they gamble, and addresses compulsive and problem gambling. 

Features

The Future of Work

By Mark Morris

State Sen. Eric Lesser

State Sen. Eric Lesser says the pandemic accelerated a number of work trends that were already in motion.

Topics like ‘the future of work’ can often sound like a lofty concept, something that’s years or even decades away from the present.

But to state Sen. Eric Lesser, the future of work has already arrived.

Lesser and state Rep. Josh Cutler co-chaired a commission on the future of work and recently released its final report.

The commission came to be after Lesser authored and filed legislation back in 2019 to address the rapid changes that are happening in workplaces across the state. From increased automation and robotics to international trade policies, all these factors affect the economy and the lives of workers in Massachusetts. The arrival of COVID-19 only accelerated and intensified these economic changes.

“The idea was to take a peek over the horizon, to look beyond COVID to see what a worker’s experience will be over the next five to 10 years, and how we can prepare for that,” Lesser said.

The legislation was signed into law in January 2021 by Gov. Charlie Baker as part of an economic-development bill. Lesser called the commission “diverse in every sense,” with members representing the private sector, the public sector, labor, and academia. Members of the commission also hailed from every region of Massachusetts.

“We gathered a group of people with a diverse set of experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives,” Lesser said. “It was important to reach consensus by considering all our viewpoints.”

A major finding of the commission’s report discusses how every type of worker is facing some new level of technology integration into their jobs. Lesser gave an example of a restaurant server who once needed only a pad and pen to take dinner orders.

“The idea was to take a peek over the horizon, to look beyond COVID to see what a worker’s experience will be over the next five to 10 years, and how we can prepare for that.”

“Now many restaurants have software programs to keep track of orders, payments, and reservations,” he said. “We’re seeing this type of technology integration in jobs across industries.”

In order to qualify for jobs that use ever-changing technology, training workers for current and future jobs becomes essential.

“One finding in the report said the state of Massachusetts has to train or retrain 30,000 to 40,000 workers a year just to keep up with all the workplace changes,” Lesser said. “That’s more than double our current capacity at the MassHire Workforce Training Center.”

On top of all the challenges on the job, another key finding addressed work-adjacent issues that affect workers off the job and impact family stability. Escalating costs for childcare and housing are among the top work-adjacent concerns.

“Private childcare in Massachusetts is $8,000 higher than the national average,” Lesser said. As a byproduct of COVID, the price of houses and rents are soaring, which forces people to live further away from their workplaces and exacerbates another concern — transportation.

 

So, What’s the Answer?

While it’s easy to list all the issues confronting workers in Massachusetts, Lesser said the report also provides recommendations to guide legislation going forward to address these concerns and make life better for workers in the state.

“The idea is to integrate the findings and perspectives of the report into everything the state does,” he noted, giving examples of upcoming legislation on healthcare and economic development where the Future of Work report aided in drafting the bills.

The most pressing area where the report can influence workplace policies involves putting a focus on equity and inclusion to make sure no one is left behind. The report reveals serious roadblocks to finding meaningful work, which Lesser wants to see addressed.

“More than one-third of families in Springfield do not own a laptop or desktop computer,” he noted. “Today, nearly every employer requires the first application be done electronically, so right off the bat it locks out a whole population of people.”

The report also suggests an increase in language training for non-English speakers, which would make it easier for immigrants to join the workforce instead of being held back by language skills.

“Predictions are that today’s worker will have 12 different jobs over the course of their work career. That number will only increase five to 10 years from now, so the notion of training for a job once is really obsolete.”

While the report is future-focused, Lesser quickly pointed out that traditional models for successful careers are already out of touch with the demands of today’s workforce. The old model where workers learned a craft or students went to college and then joined the workforce for the next 45 years without much change rarely happens these days.

“Predictions are that today’s worker will have 12 different jobs over the course of their work career,” he said. “That number will only increase five to 10 years from now, so the notion of training for a job once is really obsolete.”

To adjust to a world that keeps changing at a faster pace, the report recommends an emphasis on “stackable credentials” for workers, with constant, specific training keeping them current and promotable.

“By acquiring skills that stack on top of each other, workers can move up the skill ladder, move up the income ladder, and build out a fulfilling career as a result,” Lesser explained.

As technology demands in the workplace keep advancing, the workforce itself is aging, especially in Massachusetts. Baby Boomers are staying on the job longer than previous generations, partly for financial reasons and because technology has lessened the physical demands of work. Lesser said it’s important to consider the needs of an aging workforce from several perspectives, including work-adjacent issues.

“It’s not surprising to see workers dealing with childcare and elder care for their parents,” Lesser said. “The work culture hasn’t really accounted for that type of situation because it’s a more recent consideration.”

All these issues are called out in the report to enable the state to have information on what’s needed to help workers in the years ahead, he added. “The state needs to do its part to make sure all these work-adjacent issues are considered when planning the future of work.”

 

Strong Foundation

While all these issues and concerns can sound dramatic and overwhelming, Lesser said it’s important to remember all the contributions made by the Massachusetts economy and its workers. Early development of COVID vaccines, as well as many breakthroughs in life sciences and new technologies, are just some of the innovations the state can claim.

“We are well-positioned to benefit from all these changes because we have a highly skilled workforce, great educational institutions, and leadership in many fields,” he noted.

Looking ahead, Massachusetts has a positive story to tell. Lesser said the next challenge is to make sure “this booming engine of a state” includes all communities.

“As a result of all the changes in the workplace, we are making contributions to the world. Now we want to make sure we continue to do this without leaving people behind in the process.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College has received $30 million in state funding to move healthcare programs out of an aging building on campus that has outlived its usefulness.

Gov. Charlie Baker announced the award on Wednesday. College officials in December asked the state for the maximum amount of $30 million to vacate Building 20, which houses 18 degree and certificate allied health programs as well as the acclaimed SIMS Medical Center. STCC has secured $11.5 million from other sources for the $41.5 million project.

The award announced by the governor comes from the state Division of Capital Management and Maintenance (DCAMM).

Constructed in 1941, Building 20 is past its useful life and has a history of expensive emergency repairs. The healthcare programs in the School of Health and Patient Simulation educate more than 700 students per semester and employ more than 120 faculty and staff.

“We offer our thanks to Governor Baker, Lieutenant Governor (Karyn) Polito and Education Secretary (James) Peyser for investing in the future of healthcare and workforce development in such an impactful way,” said STCC President John Cook. “This has been a true team effort between the administration, trustees, our legislative delegation and the STCC Foundation.”

The STCC Board of Trustees committed $6 million from the college’s budget to the project. Trustees Chair Marikate Murren said, “We’re thrilled and grateful to Gov. Baker and DCAMM for their support to make this move possible. The relocation of the programs in the School of Health and Patient Simulation will allow STCC to continue to prepare students for healthcare careers. The investment in this project represents an investment in the City of Springfield and the region.”

To best summarize the outlook for the College, Cook said, “I am delighted for our students and faculty as this ensures that STCC stays on the leading edge of healthcare education; the future of STCC is bright.”

Community Spotlight Special Coverage

Community Spotlight

By Mark Morris

Andrew Surprise

Andrew Surprise says Palmer has looked into several family-friendly attractions to draw more people to town.

Three years ago, when Ryan McNutt took the job as Palmer’s town manager, he observed that, when people entered town from Mass Pike exit 8 (now exit 63), they encountered a Big Y World Class Market, a McDonald’s, a couple of other businesses, and lots of empty parcels all around them on Thorndike Street.

“You don’t typically see this near a turnpike exit; it’s usually built out with commercial real estate,” he said, adding that town residents — and those passing through — may soon see the landscape change in a meaningful way.

Indeed, McNutt has been working with other town officials and with landowners to take advantage of the considerable opportunities these empty lots present.

“The landowners have met with several national chains, and I can now share that one of the projects will be a Starbucks coffee shop,” he said.

Linda Leduc, the town planner and Economic Development director, is working on finding a retail tenant and a sit-down restaurant to join the planned Starbucks. She said turning these chronically vacant sites on Thorndike Street into vital businesses gives a big boost to Palmer residents.

“Just seeing the cleanup happen on two of the lots we’re developing is getting people excited,” she added.

Far from a scattershot approach, these commercial developments are part of a master plan the town compiled and published at the end of 2020. McNutt said this is the first master plan for Palmer since 1975.

“We had an amazing amount of public input on the plan,” he noted. “When you put the meetings on Zoom, more people show up.”

The plan addresses commercial, residential, and protected open space in Palmer. McNutt said it helps prioritize the “low-hanging fruit” where the town should put its energy now, as well as projects that can be done later. The master plan lists 20 underdeveloped sites in Palmer, 12 of which are in the process of being developed or close to that point.

“Instead of getting off the pike and just driving through, there are going to be lots of opportunities for people to stop and spend money in Palmer,” Leduc said.

 

Right Place, Right Time?

One significant potential development area is known as ‘the hill.’

As drivers exit from the turnpike, they are immediately confronted by a large hill at the end of the exit ramp. On top of the hill are nearly 100 acres of land available for development. The hill was once the proposed site for a casino until voters in Palmer rejected those plans. Recently, the Town Council approved a zone change that made an adjacent 78-acre parcel available for business use and further incentivize a large-scale project for the land.

“We’ve always seen interest in development of the hill,” said McNutt, adding that there is optimism that interest may soon turn into progress and some recognized needs met.

“With the tourism guide, we’re hoping to entice some of the folks who go to Brimfield to check out antique shops, vintage shops, and other boutique retailers in Palmer. The idea is to create a trail, similar to brewery trails.”

One priority residents have shared with him involves bringing another supermarket to Palmer. Big Y has been a stalwart in town for many years and has contributed to various community efforts.

“Big Y is a great company, and they are a great partner, but residents would like to have some other options,” McNutt said. “It’s what I’m hearing the most from people in Palmer.”

Closer to downtown, a recent zone change to the former Converse Middle School has drawn both interest and concern. Andrew Surprise, CEO of the Quaboag Hills Chamber of Commerce, said the more business-friendly zone change has drawn interest from a company that would convert the school to an Esports Arena, where video-game players of all levels could compete against others.

“In the New England area, there’s really nothing like this,” said Surprise. “There are some at colleges like UMass Amherst, but those are geared to students on campus rather than the general public.”

The Esports Arena is one of several ideas to bring family-friendly attractions to Palmer. According to Surprise, the town has looked into a water park, a trampoline park, and other attractions.

Linda Leduc

Linda Leduc says turning chronically vacant sites on Thorndike Street into vital businesses is a development priority.

“I believe the town will do a feasibility study at some point for the Esports idea as there’s still much to do to make sure the residents approve of it or any other proposed use,” he said.

Through a MassDevelopment program know as the Transformative Development Initiative, Surprise is working on other ways to attract businesses to Palmer. The Vacant Downtown Storefront Program is one that may have some promise for the downtown area. “It provides grant funding for a business to renovate a storefront if they plan to open there,” he explained.

Meanwhile, as interest in more retail grows, another aspect of the town’s economy, tourism and hospitality, is poised for a resurgence after two long years of the pandemic.

Indeed, for the past two years, Surprise has held off publishing the chamber’s tourism guide and visitors directory. The pandemic led to frequent changes and cancellations to event schedules, making publishing the guide seem futile.

Businesses are now contacting Surprise because they want to get their names and events out to the public once again. The new guide is scheduled to be complete by early May and available to the crowds attending the Brimfield Antique Flea Market in mid-May.

“With the tourism guide, we’re hoping to entice some of the folks who go to Brimfield to check out antique shops, vintage shops, and other boutique retailers in Palmer,” he said. “The idea is to create a trail, similar to brewery trails.”

Speaking of breweries, Surprise said Palmer and other towns in the chamber are looking to host a brewery in their community.

“Even though there are lots of breweries in the general area, we have our eyes open for anyone who wants to open a brewery to see if we can help them with any incentives,” he noted.

 

Bridges to the Future

To make Palmer more economically viable, the master plan suggests ensuring proper infrastructure is in place. Two main bridges in town, located on Church Street and Main Street, are both in need of replacing. MassDOT closed the Church Street Bridge in 2019 while the Main Street bridge had minor repairs which will keep it safe for vehicular traffic. The town will soon erect a truss bridge to use while a new Church Street bridge is built.

“The state said it will use some of their infrastructure funding to fully replace the Church Street bridge, but that could take up to five years,” McNutt said. “The truss bridge allows us to keep the bridge open to traffic.”

In MassDOT terms, the Main Street bridge is not in imminent danger, but the town does need to replace it in the future. McNutt said the plan right now is to use the truss bridge on Church Street, then move it to Main Street once the permanent Church Street bridge is complete.

With passage of the federal infrastructure bill, McNutt remains optimistic about the proposed east-west rail proposal across Massachusetts. Currently, the state has three alternative configurations for the rail project, with a stop in Palmer included in all three. McNutt said he’s hopeful that remains the case and looks forward to talking with the state once it is ready to proceed.

“Obviously, this would be transformative for Palmer,” he said, adding that a rail stop will serve to make the town an even more attractive option for new retail and hospitality-related businesses.

Nearly two-thirds of housing in Palmer consists of single-family homes, higher than the state and county averages of just below 60%. McNutt said town leaders are working to attract more permanent housing development for the community.

To that end, work will soon begin on a 200-cottage development at Forest Lake. The plan calls for seasonal cottages that will have water and sewer services. McNutt estimates that, when complete, the cottages will add nearly $800,000 to the tax base in Palmer.

On the other side of Forest Lake, the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game plans to build a new boat launch, parking lot, and ADA-accessible fishing pier so people of all abilities can enjoy the water. McNutt estimates the state project and the cottages are about two years away from completion.

“I feel like we’re finally getting to the point where Palmer is going to see lots of great things happening that residents and visitors will be able to enjoy,” Leduc said.

 

 

Bottom Line

Everywhere he goes in town, McNutt carries a copy of the economic-development chapter of the master plan.

“This way, when someone has a question about what we’re doing, I can show them in the plan how we want to create destination locations for them and for folks who have never been here,” he said.

With the proposed east-west rail and a lower cost of living compared to Eastern Mass., McNutt believes Palmer has the right location at the right time, and can take a meaningful step forward in terms of growth and prosperity.

“We’re going to position Palmer as an attractive place to live,” he said, adding that it can, and hopefully will, also become an attractive place for businesses of all kinds to plant roots.

Opinion

Editorial

 

It’s easy to understand why members of the Springfield City Council were not happy with the way the recent request for $6.5 million in emergency funding for the Court Square Development project came to them.

It arrived late and in the form of an ultimatum of sorts: ‘approve this additional expenditure immediately, or this important project will die.’ One of those officials involved with the now $64 million project hinted strongly that if the money was not approved, and quickly, the building would deteriorate and perhaps even collapse.

The 11th-hour request, which came on the heels of skyrocketing construction costs that are impacting development projects of all kinds across the country, should have come at the 10th hour or even the ninth. Those leading the project, which will bring 71 market-rate apartments, retail space, and a restaurant to downtown Springfield, knew costs were escalating and knew they would need additional assistance to keep the initiative on track.

They put the council on the spot, unnecessarily — so much so that a resolution was recently passed requiring the mayor’s office to give the council 30 days’ notice on any economic-development issue that needs council approval.

Fortunately, most members of the council put aside their concerns about how all this went down and did the right thing. They voted to approve the measure and enable the much-needed project to move forward.

There were some questions as to just how much this project is needed, but the majority of the council could see how the importance of the initiative to the future of the city.

We’ve said it many times, and others have said it many times as well: one of the real keys moving forward is to balance the many people working downtown with those who actually call that area home.

This has been a formula for success in many cities, including Lowell, Worcester, Hartford, and many others, and it will be a key ingredient for Springfield moving forward, especially if current trends continue and there are fewer people actually coming to work each day in the city’s downtown.

In those other cities, a critical mass of people living in a downtown has spawned new service and hospitality businesses, which, in turn, have promoted more people to want to live in those areas, which, in turn, has prompted more businesses, which attract more people … you get the idea.

The Court Square project, which has been talked about for decades, literally, and has come to fruition through a unique public-private partnership, isn’t the answer. But it’s part of the answer, just as MGM Springfield, a revitalized Tower Square and White Lion Brewing, the Springfield Thunderbirds, Union Station, new housing in the old Willys-Overland property on Chestnut Street, and other developments are parts of the answer.

And that’s why it was so important for the council to look past the nature of this request and, as we said, do the right thing.

For Springfield, and the region, this was an important step forward.

Franklin County Special Coverage

Lighting the Way

 

 

Yankee Candle has long been a national and even global powerhouse in the scented-candle business, but the company will always have special appeal in Western Mass., where Michael Kittredge launched it more than a half-century ago. That appeal is partly — perhaps largely — due to Yankee Candle Village, which has become a significant attraction over the years, one that continues to raise the profile of Deerfield and other Franklin County destinations.

 

By Mark Morris

 

Yankee Candle Village may be best-known for its Christmas-themed displays around the holidays, Wade Bassett sees plenty of promise in the spring as well for a company — and tourist destination — that holds year-round appeal, especially as COVID-19 numbers continue to trend downward.

Bassett is the director of Sales and Operations at the Village, Yankee Candle’s flagship store located in Deerfield. Additionally, the company maintains a manufacturing facility in Whately, a distribution center in South Deerfield, and its flagship store on Route 5. Year-round employment totals nearly 600 people, and as the manufacturing and retail operations get busier for the holidays, the number of employees can reach as high as 750.

During the pandemic, staff at Yankee Candle Village incorporated extra cleaning protocols and made sure to always have masks for anyone who requested one. Bassett said the focus remains on providing a safe and worry-free shopping experience for guests who are looking forward to getting out and celebrating traditions with family and friends.

“We’re seeing daycationers, people who aren’t ready to jump on a plane yet. Instead, they are spending time visiting local attractions like Yankee Candle Village.”

“We’re seeing daycationers, people who aren’t ready to jump on a plane yet,” he said. “Instead, they are spending time visiting local attractions like Yankee Candle Village.”

Wade Bassett

Wade Bassett says Yankee Candle’s relationships with the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Springfield CVB, and local businesses have driven traffic to the site.

He credited the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau for keeping Yankee Candle Village top of mind as a key regional destination. “Their efforts focus on a collaborative approach to drive traffic and tourism to the area, and we couldn’t be prouder of our partnership with both of them.”

Last year’s arrival of Tree House Brewing Co., located a half-mile north on Route 5 from Yankee Candle Village, has contributed to the amount of traffic in Deerfield, which benefits all local destinations.

“We have a great relationship with Treehouse Brewery, and we’re excited to have them as another strong and prosperous business in our community,” Bassett said, pointing out that guests can visit Powder Hollow Brewery at Yankee Candle Village, then head up Route 5 to Tree House Brewery, and from there it’s a short trip to Berkshire Brewing Co. located close by in the center of Deerfield. “It’s essentially a mini-beer tour right here in our own backyard.”

Deerfield Town Administrator Kacey Warren, who credits Yankee Candle Village for being a strong tourism draw that benefits Deerfield and Western Mass., made a similar observation on the potential mini-beer tour.

“We now have three fun brewing spaces in town that we hope people will visit to make them all successful,” she told BusinessWest.

 

The Nose Knows

Guests to the flagship store in Deerfield will also find more than 150 fragrant candles on hand. Bassett said many visitors enjoy the treasure hunt of discovering new seasonal candle fragrances such as Sakura Blossom Festival as well as traditional favorites like Clean Cotton, Pink Sands, and McIntosh, a personal favorite of Bassett’s.

The new Well Living Collection are candles designed to transform the mood in the room, he added. “It’s a collection we created to help find balance at a time when wellness is more important than ever.”

Over the last two years, as people were spending more time at home, the Yankee Candle manufacturing facility in Whately stayed busy. Demand for fragrant candles increased during that time, and Yankee Candle products saw plenty of movement off retail shelves. As more people transitioned into working from home, Bassett explained, they were looking to create a space of relaxation and comfort.

“Through fragrance, we are able to help our customers transform their homes into a space that’s happier, fresher, and more inviting,” he said. “Our passion for fragrance helps make your house feel more like a home.”

“Our programs are all about celebrating traditions with families. We are looking at more events that will appeal to all the families who visit us.”

While Yankee is obviously in the candle business, it is also clearly in the home fragrance business. That leads to developing products that may not be candles but help reinforce the Yankee Candle brand in new and different ways, such as the ScentPlug Fan.

“The ScentPlug Fan circulates fragrance throughout every corner of the room and has a built-in light sensor that provides a soft glow when the lights are low,” Bassett explained. Depending on the season or mood, a variety of scents can be easily swapped out of the fan unit.

The new Signature Candle line

The new Signature Candle line features new scents in redesigned vessels.

As April approaches, Bassett discussed several events planned for Yankee Candle Village, beginning with the arrival of the Easter Bunny on April 2, as well as Easter Bunny greetings every weekend leading up to Easter Sunday. There are also events planned for April school vacation week.

“Our programs are all about celebrating traditions with families,” Bassett said. “We are looking at more events that will appeal to all the families who visit us.”

This year, the Franklin County Chamber moved its office and visitor center to Historic Deerfield, a move designed to bring more tourism activity to Deerfield and surrounding towns. Before the pandemic, Historic Deerfield would attract nearly 20,000 visitors every year. Diana Szynal, executive director of the chamber, said the new visitor center is an opportunity to encourage people to explore the area further and stay longer in the county.

“Part of our mission as a regional tourism council is to encourage people to extend their stay,” she said. “Yankee Candle, Historic Deerfield, and other great attractions give people a reason to spend that extra time in our area.”

 

Making Scents of It All

While visitors come to Yankee Candle Village all year, fall and the holiday season are still the busiest times for guests.

“When you grow up in New England, there’s the smell of fall, the feel of Christmas, and the traditions that come with it,” Bassett said. “It’s like no other time of the year.”

A highlight every year at Yankee Candle Village is the arrival of Santa Claus, who makes his way there by either helicopter or fire truck. Bassett said he enjoys talking with the families who attend this event every year.

“In some cases, the kids who came here years ago are now parents, and they are bringing their own children,” he noted. “It’s become a generational event for lots of families.”

The holidays are just one time when the loyal fanbase of Yankee Candle shoppers will visit the flagship store. But it’s not unusual for people to go there several times a year. “Fragrance evokes memories which are extremely powerful for our guests,” Bassett said.

Now a 30-year employee, he expressed gratitude to be working with “such an amazing company.” And he’s looking forward to spring and the opportunity to talk about another new Yankee Candle product line, the Signature Candle.

“It’s a line featuring new scents in redesigned vessels,” Bassett said. “My personal favorite is Iced Berry Lemonade, a mix of strawberry, lemon, and grapefruit aromas that will be my go-to fragrance for spring.”

As soon as the snow melts in the hilltowns, Bassett plans to make sure an Iced Berry Lemonade candle will have a prominent place on his backyard patio — a reminder that Yankee Candle, both its products and its famous Village, remain a year-round draw for people in Western Mass. and well beyond.

Opinion

 

 

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by this state’s mind-numbing hesitancy when it comes to sports gambling.

After all, legislators waited years after other states moved ahead with casino gambling to finally put a measure in place for Massachusetts. Time and again, casino gambling was brought up for votes and brushed aside for … another day. Finally, casino gambling was approved roughly a decade ago, but the hesitation cost the state dearly. Indeed, by the time the three casino operations in the state, including MGM Springfield, were up and running, the competition in surrounding states had increased exponentially, essentially changing the landscape and making it far more difficult for those casinos to gain the revenues that were projected when the casino bill was finally passed.

One might have thought the state would have learned from this expensive lesson, but here we are in late March, the middle of this year’s college basketball championships, the biggest betting event on the planet, and the state appears nowhere close to passing a sports-gambling bill.

It’s perplexing, but it’s also quite frustrating. The casinos sorely need this huge revenue stream, and the lack of sports betting is putting them at a competitive disadvantage, not only during March Madness, but the other 11 months of the year as well. The casinos have all built facilities in anticipation of a sports-gambling measure — MGM has created two areas for watching and wagering on sports (see story on page 33) — but they currently sit unused or have been put to other uses.

Theories abound about why there is such hesitation on sports gambling, including the one concerning it becoming competition for the state’s highly lucrative lottery. We understand the premise, but people were saying the same thing about the state’s three casinos. Almost four years after they’ve opened, the lottery is still thriving.

Another theory is that legislators are wary that sports gambling — on top of the casinos and the aforementioned lottery — would be too much gambling and perhaps put more people at risk of developing addictions.

We understand this theory as well, but if people want to bet on sports — and a large number of people do (Americans spent $9.7 billion on sports bets this past January alone) — they will find a way to do it. And with New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and other nearby states already allowing such gambling, they don’t have to travel far to do it.

Overall, 15 states introduced sports-betting legislation in 2021, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the big question is why Massachusetts didn’t make it 16.

Bills have been introduced — several of them, in fact — but they haven’t received the requisite attention to gain any traction.

Overall, sports gambling is just not a priority in this state. Should it be? There are plenty of other priorities, certainly, including housing, education, mental health, and childcare. But while tackling them, it seems the state Legislature could find the time and inclination to pass a sports-gambling measure.

The ongoing hesitancy simply doesn’t make sense. And it should not continue.

Community Spotlight Special Coverage

Holyoke Looks to Build on the Momentum from Cannabis, Entrepreneurship

 

Aaron Vega

Aaron Vega says there are many cannabis-related businesses now operating in Holyoke, and many more in the pipeline.

Joshua Garcia, Holyoke’s first Puerto Rican mayor and a lifelong resident of this historic community, says that, in many respects, history is repeating itself in the city.

Elaborating, he said that for the better part of a century, the paper and textile mills on the canals were a symbol of strength, a source of jobs, and, in many ways, the city’s identity (see Sidebar here)

It wasn’t that way through the latter half of the 20th century as most of the mills went south, and into the 21st century, he went on, but it’s becoming that way again, largely because of the booming cannabis industry that is breathing new life into those long-vacant mills.

“Those mills were the economic anchor,” he said. “And it’s interesting to see history repeat itself; but instead of the Paper City, there’s now this ‘Rolling Paper City’ interest. Although it’s a different industry … the impact is the same.”

Indeed, cannabis is changing the landscape in Holyoke, figuratively if not literally, although that, too. Aaron Vega, director of Planning & Economic Development in Holyoke and a former state representative, said there are now eight cannabis operations doing business in Holyoke, and several dozen more in various stages of development.

Just as important as the number of ventures is the broad diversity on display, he said, noting that the city boasts several cultivating operations, dispensaries, a testing lab, and more.

“We continue to see cannabis interest and cannabis companies opening,” said Vega. “There’s a lot in the pipeline.”

But while the emergence of a cannabis cluster in Holyoke — similar to what is happening with biotech in Worcester in many respects — has been impressive, there is much more to what most would call a resurgence in this city than one industry. There has been a surge in entrepreneurship that has brought many new businesses to High Street and other streets. There have been several new restaurants, for example, despite the toll the pandemic has taken on that sector, but many other kinds of ventures as well, said Jordan Hart, executive director of the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce.

“Over the past year, we’ve had more than a dozen ribbon cuttings, most of them restaurants and all of them small businesses.”

“Over the past year, we’ve had more than a dozen ribbon cuttings, most of them restaurants and all of them small businesses,” she said, noting that her ceremonial scissors have been given a workout. She credits the pandemic and the manner in which it has prompted introspection and, for many, a desire for something different and hopefully more fulfilling than their 9-5 job, as being a catalyst for some of this activity.

Tessa Murphy Romboletti, director of EforAll Holyoke and now also at-large City Councilor — she was elected last November — agreed.

She said the pandemic has helped fuel interest in entrepreneurship across the board, meaning people of all ages and demographic groups. EforAll has been expanding and evolving in ongoing efforts to meet the needs of such individuals, she said, adding that it is now staging its 12th and 13th cohorts of aspiring entrepreneurs, one for English-speaking candidates, and one for Spanish. It is also adding a new program, called E-Forever, a resource for those who are already in business rather than trying to get off the ground.

But beyond COVID, this surge in entrepreneurship is also being fueled by Holyoke’s emergence as a landing spot for those looking for affordability, diversity, a growing cultural economy, and a chance to do something they may not be able to do in a larger, far more expensive municipality.

People like Jay Candelario, who grew up in the city, moved to New York, but eventually returned. Battling heavy doubts and some long odds, he took an historic home on Dwight Street that had been damaged in a lightning strike, and converted it into Jay’s Bed & Breakfast.

Opened in 2016, the facility has certainly been challenged by the pandemic, but it has hung on, through diversification into catering and events, and Candelario’s persistence and belief in not only himself and his concept, but Holyoke itself (more on that, later).

Jay Candelario

Jay Candelario, seen here at the grand staircase at his B&B on Dwight Street, says Holyoke is staging a resurgence and attracting many new residents and businesses.

For this, the latest installment of its Community Spotlight series, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at Holyoke and the many forces that are shaping progress in the city and, as the mayor noted, enabling history to repeat itself.

 

On a Roll

While there are many developments in Holyoke from a business perspective, cannabis continues to be the story.

And as Vega said, it’s one that involves a large number of businesses, diversity of ventures, and large supply of potential new initiatives in the pipeline.

Providing a quick snapshot of the cannabis cluster in Holyoke, which has a popular destination because of its cheap electricity, location near major interstates, and large supply of old mill buildings, Vega said there are now more than 500 people working within the industry in Holyoke, many of whom have graduated from cannabis programs at area colleges (see related story, page 35), and many different kinds of facilities, from cultivation and manufacturing operations., to dispensaries, to a testing facility, Analytics Labs, which opened last year, on Appleton Street. It’s the first operation of its kind in Western Mass., and provides a vital service to businesses that are required to submit the cannabis to independent labs that run a number of tests, for potency, solvents, pesticides, pathogenic microbes, and more.

“We have several businesses already operating, and another dozen growth and manufacturing facilities that could be up and running by the end of the year,” said Vega.

But there are still many challenges facing those looking to enter this industry, especially the smaller ventures, he went on.

“I think there’s still a lot of challenges for these companies to get their financing,” said Vega. “The MSOs — the multi-state operators — are able to set up shop more easily than the locally owned companies, but they are starting to come to fruition.”

Tessa Murphy-Romboletti

Tessa Murphy-Romboletti, director of EforAll Holyoke, took her involvement in the city to a higher plane with election to the City Council last fall.

One development that may help some of these businesses get over the hump — and help Holyoke as well — is the creation of what Vega called an “incubator” for cannabis businesses in the old National Blank Book property on Cabot Street. There, many smaller businesses are getting support to break into the business and overcome the many hurdles — from financing to licensing to building a workforce — to opening the doors to a new cannabis business.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Vega, adding that there are a number of smaller enterprises occupying spaces in the facility and trying to move ventures forward.

Looking ahead, both Vega and Garcia said that one challenge — and opportunity — for the city is to promote the development of support businesses for the cannabis sector.

Elaborating, Vega said that these businesses must now order lighting, raw materials, and other products from companies on the other side of the country, and would certainly prefer to be able to source them locally.

“They all agree; there could be substantial savings if they didn’t have to order their products from Texas and Florida,” he told BusinessWest. “And we also like to think about the bigger picture — if we get those kinds of companies to land here in Western Mass., not just Holyoke, but Western Mass., there could be tremendous opportunities for the region.”

Elaborating, he said several neighboring states have either already legalized marijuana or are in the process of doing so, and having support businesses that can provide lighting and products in Massachusetts, as opposed to Texas, could facilitate efforts to make this area a hub, not just for Massachusetts, but for all of New England.

 

Getting Down to Business

Murphy-Romboletti said she first started thinking about running for City Council two years ago. A former city employee — she worked in the mayor’s office and, later, the Office of Planning & Economic Development — she said she has always wanted to be involved with the community and knew that the Council was where one could make an impact — on the city, but also its business community.

After consulting with her bosses with EforAll, a national organization with several locations in the Bay State, including two in Western Mass., and getting their blessing, she threw her hat into the ring. She’s only been on the job a few months now, and has spent most of that time reaching out to department heads and talking with them about what they need for their offices to run better and more effectively.

From an economic development perspective, she said she has long understood the Council’s impact on business. “It has the ability to slow down process or speed up process on things,” she said. “And I think permitting, in and of itself, within our local government, is confusing and not always as necessary as it needs to be, and that’s one of the reasons why I ran.”

Elaborating, and without actually using the phrase, she said one of her goals is to help make the city more business-friendly, and especially at a time when there is so much interest in entrepreneurship — both within the cannabis sector but also well beyond it.

Which … brings her back to her day job. EforAll is seeing growing numbers of applications for its cohorts, she said, adding there are 22 participants in the current sessions. The pandemic has brought a regrettable halt to most in-person learning opportunities (although she’s hoping that might change soon), but the agency is carrying on through Zoom.

A number of graduates have gone on to open businesses, many in the downtown area, she said, adding that the ongoing needs of these ventures prompted the creation of E-Forever.

Undertaken in conjunction with Entrepreneurs Forever, the new group is a “resource for those who have gone through the program and are currently in business, rather than those who are just getting started,” she explained.

“These businesses are generating revenue, and they have unique challenges,” she went on, adding that this group of perhaps 8-10 entrepreneurs will meet once a month, share information, and troubleshoot. “The entrepreneurs pick what they want to work on; it’s like having an accountability group that meets each month to support whatever challenges you’re having as an existing business owner.”

The broad goal, she said, is to enable more businesses to weather the many storms they will face as they mature and grow and stay in business, preferably in Holyoke.

A good deal of resilience has already been on display, said Jordan, adding that she couldn’t think of a single business in the city that closed during the pandemic, and, meanwhile, as she noted, many new ones have been opening.

Jordan Hart, executive director of the Greater Holyoke Chamber

Jordan Hart, executive director of the Greater Holyoke Chamber, says the pandemic has helped create a surge of entrepreneurship in the city and a number of new businesses.

“It’s been remarkable to see the perseverance the community has to see Holyoke thrive,” she said, adding that while existing businesses, often with help in the form of local, state, and federal grants, have found what it takes to survive the pandemic, COVID has inspired many others to join their ranks in the business community.

“People began to prioritize not only their personal life and their personal interests, but also their mental health and well-being,” she explained. “And many found that what they wanted was more work-life balance and flexible schedules. And that’s where entrepreneurship came into play … with people finding their true selves, what their purpose is, and what they want their purpose to be; the pandemic really shook things up in that sense.”

She said the roster of new businesses includes restaurants, like Crave, El Paradiso Colombiano, and the Avalon Café, and several cannabis-related businesses, but also a few boutiques. And, as noted, most are in the heart of downtown, bringing many formerly dormant spaces to life.

 

Rooms with a View

That historic home on Dwight Street that Jay Candelario found was more than dormant.

It needed considerable work inside and out, he told BusinessWest, adding that while most were more than willing to consider the property known to most as the Moriarty mansion and ultimately pass, he decided to take a chance.

“I’m a risk taker,” said Candelario, who was born in Puerto Rico, grew up in Holyoke and then Amherst, and moved to New York City as an adult. “And you would have to be a risk taker to take this on.”

Those sentiments reflected more than the condition of the Queen Anne Victorian; they also referenced the time of this acquisition (2009, the height of the Great Recession) and the seemingly long odds against creating a successful B&B in downtown Holyoke.

But Candelario was able to look past the challenges and the doubters and see opportunity. It’s taken a while for the vision to become reality, and the pandemic has certainly put more hurdles in front of him — he admits to coming close to packing it in and moving on to something else — but Candelario, like many business owners in Holyoke, has persevered.

“We have several businesses already operating, and another dozen growth and manufacturing facilities that could be up and running by the end of the year.”

As he gave BusinessWest a tour and pointed out rooms bearing the names of places he’s visited in and lived in — ‘Brazil,’ ‘New York,’ ‘Puerto Rico,’ and ‘Holyoke,’ among others — Candelario said business has been steady if unspectacular, with guests ranging from traveling nurses, to executives for Coca Cola, to “emergencies” in the form of needed beds for those being helped by the nonprofits Roca Holyoke and Women’s Shelter Companeras, now Alianza. Over the years, though, he’s been able to draw guests visiting area colleges, individuals in town on business, and those attending the St. Patrick’s Day parade and road race. His audience is those who want something different than the run-of-the-mill hotel room.

Shut down for the better part of a year by the pandemic starting in March, 2020, he said he’s been able to keep his dream alive by diversifying and expanding his operation into catering and the hosting of events ranging from baby showers to family reunions to nonprofit retreats.

While reflecting on his business and where he can take it, Candelario also ruminated on Holyoke, its present and its future. And he drew many comparisons to the Bronx, another diverse community he believes is also misunderstood and underappreciated. He lived there for some time, and was originally planning to open a B&B near Yankee Stadium until the economic downturn in 2008 scuttled those plans.

“The Bronx and Holyoke have a lot in common,” he said. “It’s the inner city, working class, different cultures; they’re melting pots that many people just don’t appreciate for all that they are.”

Beyond these qualities, the city boasts location and affordability, two important factors in these changing times.

“Holyoke is very affordable for those people who are starting off,” he explained. “They can get better housing for the buck. And if you want to work in Northampton, it’s 10 to 15 minutes away; Springfield is 10 to 15 minutes away; Agawam is 10-15 minutes away.

“I see Holyoke as a very progressive, very upwardly mobile city,” he went on. “You have people from many different areas coming here, not just locally, but from around the country. I run into people from Chicago who moved here, and Florida, California, New York City, and Boston. They come here because they see opportunities. People see the same thing that I see.”

 

View to the Future

Candelario said he assigned the name ‘Holyoke’ to one particular room at his B&B because, if one looks closely, he or she can see City Hall from one of the windows.

As he surveys the scene, though, he sees more than that iconic structure. Much more.

He sees a city that is putting its recent, not so glorious, past, behind it, and becoming something else: a destination of sorts, for travelers, but especially residents seeking affordability and quality of life, and businesses looking for a solid spot to land.

This is what Mayor Garcia had in mind when he said that history is repeating itself in Holyoke, and not just when it comes to the mills as a symbol of jobs and economic might.

Indeed, Holyoke’s past, as an ethnically diverse center of business and culture, is also its future.

 

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

Daily News

 

 

Western Mass. businessman Cesar Ruiz, one of the state’s first-ever elected Latinos and the president and CEO of Golden Years Home Care, is urging Massachusetts to adopt electronic signatures as a means for candidates to access the ballot statewide in constitutional offices.

As a result of the pandemic, the Massachusetts Supreme Court in a ruling in 2020 allowed the gathering of electronic signatures needed by candidates to see their name on the ballot for election. The ruling was temporary, and Ruiz is advocating for this to be made permanent. Ruiz announced the formation of a group, Citizens for Transparency, to lead the effort to bring about this change and to support other initiatives that encourage enfranchisement of voters and those attempting to gain ballot access.

 

Ruiz and his business are based in Western Massachusetts, and he will be calling on the Western Massachusetts delegation to file legislation immediately to make the 2020 ruling on electronic signatures permanent.

 

“We hear so much in the political discourse today about inclusion and enfranchising all in the electoral process,” he said. “The sad truth is, as we see around the nation with voter suppression legislation being enacted and the failure of Washington to pass a voting rights bill, that there is still a very long way to go. The Commonwealth should immediately adopt the use of electronic signatures to provide more access to the ballot for those seeking office.

 

“How in good conscience can any reasonable elected official oppose a ruling that was implemented during the height of the COVID pandemic to leverage technology to help candidates access the ballot?” he went on. “Our elected officials often preach inclusion in our electoral system and this is an opportunity to put those words into action. Citizen and candidate participation are the cornerstones of a healthy democracy, and I look forward to working with the Western Massachusetts legislative delegation and other sponsors to file and pass this legislation this year.”

Ruiz, who was recognized by the Massachusetts State Senate for being the first Latino ever elected at large in Massachusetts history, said another avenue would be for Secretary William Galvin to permanently adopt the 2020 ruling. 

Ruiz was elected at age 25 as the first Hispanic in Springfield on the School Committee, and served until 1986. 

Golden Years Home Care was named Entrepreneur of the Year for 2020 by BusinessWest magazine. Ruiz was also featured by Hispanic Executive, a publication spotlighting business’s most influential Latinos.

Banking and Financial Services

The $1 Million Exemption Level Is Among the Lowest in the Country

By Barbara Trombley

Did you ever wonder why all of your Massachusetts neighbors move to Florida when they retire? And they make sure they spend six months and a day at their southern address?

Of course, the warm winter weather in sunny Florida is a draw. But another reason many people in Massachusetts change their state residence is to avoid the Massachusetts estate tax, which is levied on estates valued over $1 million. Given the value of real estate and 401(k) plans in Massachusetts, it is not that hard to pass this threshold for many middle-class people.

Surprisingly, the federal estate tax is $12.06 million per person in 2022. Also, it is portable between spouses. With the correct steps, a married couple can protect $24.12 million after the death of both spouses in 2022. Our state estate tax is shockingly different. Of the 18 states with an estate or inheritance tax, Massachusetts and Oregon have the lowest exemption level of $1 million.

Also, the Massachusetts estate tax has a regressive feature where, if you die with an estate valued at $1,000,001 or more, your heirs will pay a graduated tax starting at the first dollar over $40,000 (which is a small exclusion). The bill on a $1 million estate is about $40,000. The tax rate is a graduated one and rises from 0.8% to 16% depending on the size of the estate. The heirs of an estate worth $3 million could find themselves with a tax bill approaching $200,000.

Massachusetts is shockingly out of step with the nation and with the rest of New England. Maine, Connecticut, and Vermont all have exclusions of more than $5 million, and New Hampshire does not have an inheritance tax at all. Until our legislators raise the exemption to keep up with inflation and make the exemption a true one, residents will continue to flee the state or jump through hoops to help their heirs avoid the tax.

Barbara Trombley

Barbara Trombley

“The tax rate is a graduated one and rises from 0.8% to 16% depending on the size of the estate. The heirs of an estate worth $3 million could find themselves with a tax bill approaching $200,000.”

What is included in your estate? Bank accounts, real estate, retirement accounts, life-insurance proceeds, vehicles, etc. Upon the death of the first spouse, no tax is owed. It is upon the death of the last remaining spouse that the dollar amount of assets is counted and an estate tax will need to be filed if the total value exceeds $1 million. The return must be filed, and any tax must be paid nine months after the death. The state may grant an extension of time, but interest will accrue on any unpaid amounts past the due date.

What can be done to mitigate the tax if the laws don’t change? Perhaps you retitle the ownership of your house to a trust or to an adult child to remove it from your estate. Each spouse can also set up a trust to shelter $1 million upon their death. This keeps the funds out of their estate but available to the surviving spouse to use if set up correctly.

Cash and other assets can be gifted to reduce an estate, but be careful about capital gains or tax owed on retirement funds. Charitable contributions can also be made to reduce the size of the estate. Many retirees move to a tax-friendly state, like Florida, and become residents. Working with a qualified financial planner and an estate attorney is imperative to mitigate the estate tax.

 

Barbara Trombley is a financial advisor and CPA with Wilbraham-based Trombley, CPA; (413) 596-6992. Securities offered through LPL Financial. Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Trombley Associates, a registered investment advisor and separate entity from LPL Financial.

Community Spotlight Special Coverage

Community Spotlight

By Mark Morris

Chris Brittain

Chris Brittain says several projects in Lee, both town-funded and using ARPA aid, are moving forward.

As the pandemic enters its third year of disrupting life as we knew it, the business community in Lee continues to manage the disruptions of COVID-19 and its variants with a good degree of success. Colleen Henry attributes that to one reason.

“The local people here in Lee are strong supporters of our businesses,” said Henry, executive director of the Lee Chamber of Commerce.

Along with Lenox and Stockbridge, Lee is part of the Tri Town Health Department, which has maintained a mask mandate for all indoor spaces. One upside of the mask requirement is that it enables businesses, as well as town offices, to remain open without interruption.

That’s important, said interim Town Administrator Christopher Brittain, who has been on the job for only four months, yet has a full list of projects in the queue for this year and beyond.

Lee received an allocation of $1.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, which will be spread out among several projects in town. Among them are replacing water lines in a couple of areas and upgrading the municipal website to make it easier for people to conduct town business online.

“When someone sells their home at $20,000 to $30,000 dollars over asking price, every house in that neighborhood increases in value. We can’t control the market, but we were able to lower the tax rate.”

All three towns in the Tri Town Health Department will contribute some of their ARPA money to fund the creation of a new food-inspector position in the department, a position certified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as part of a national standards program.

“Obviously, we have inspectors now,” Brittain said. “The new position gives us someone to provide guidance with federal programs and reduce issues with food service and retail food vendors.”

Outside of ARPA funds, Brittain discussed several projects in the works, including paving on Main Street, with $1 million in funding approved at the last town meeting to continue that project into the summer.

Lee at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1777
Population: 5,788
Area: 27 square miles
County: Berkshire
Residential Tax Rate: $13.65
Commercial Tax Rate: $13.65
Median Household Income: $41,566
Median Family Income: $49,630
Type of Government: Representative Town Meeting
Largest Employers: Lee Premium Outlets; Onyx Specialty Papers; the Landing at Laurel Lake; Oak n’ Spruce Resort; Big Y
* Latest information available

One significant project Brittain hopes to see make progress this year involves the former Eagle Mill paper company. Plans to redevelop the site feature 80 units of affordable and market-rate housing, as well as several restaurant and retail stores. The $55 million project has been in the works for several years, though the official groundbreaking was held only three months ago.

“Because of COVID, the Eagle Mill project is moving slower than everyone wants it to,” Brittain said, noting that a significant next step involves six dilapidated houses near the site, which were recently purchased to be torn down. Construction on the mill complex is scheduled to roll out in two phases. “This is a big project that will take up the entire north end of Main Street.”

Additional housing in Lee would certainly be welcome, said Henry, who noted the current supply of available houses is low because sales have been so brisk. “As a result, we have a lot of new residents, and that’s kind of exciting.”

In terms of real-estate taxes, the past year brought both good news and bad news, as the town lowered the tax rate, but selling prices for homes kept boosting valuations, resulting in higher taxes anyway.

“Whether we replace or renovate, we have to do something because the police are running out of space, and the ambulance building needs work.”

“When someone sells their home at $20,000 to $30,000 dollars over asking price, every house in that neighborhood increases in value,” Brittain said. “We can’t control the market, but we were able to lower the tax rate.”

For this year, the tax rate is $13.65 per thousand, down from $14.68 the year before. Because of higher valuations, he explained, the average tax increased by $193.

 

High Times Ahead

One industry relatively new to the tax rolls in Lee is cannabis. Right now, Canna Provisions is the only cannabis facility that’s up and running, but Brittain said the town has 14 permits for various cannabis facilities, with interested parties claiming 13 of them. Activity for future cannabis businesses includes a facility for growing on Route 102 under construction and a dispensary proposed for the former Cork and Hearth restaurant on the Lee/Lenox line.

The revenue from Canna Provisions has begun making a difference for the town. Brittain said the impact on tax revenue has made it possible for the town to consider hiring a full-time school resource officer, add streetlights in town, and begin a study on public-safety facilities.

Right now, Lee’s public-safety departments are in several buildings. The police operate out of two floors in Town Hall, the Fire Department is in an historic firehouse, and the town ambulance is located in a separate building.

“We are doing a study to see if we can consolidate public safety in one new building,” Brittain said. “Whether we replace or renovate, we have to do something because the police are running out of space, and the ambulance building needs work.”

An artist’s rendering of the Eagle Mill redevelopment project in Lee.

An artist’s rendering of the Eagle Mill redevelopment project in Lee.

While the study won’t happen for a while, he noted, thanks to the cannabis revenue, the town can explore its options for whether to invest in what it has or move forward with a new facility.

Before the Omicron variant of COVID hit, businesses in Lee were having a strong fall season. Henry said business was brisk. “We had lots of people come to Lee who were eating in our restaurants, staying in our hotels, and shopping in our stores, so we were pretty happy about the fall.”

Despite new variants of COVID and other disruptions to business, Henry noted that, because restaurants have developed strong takeout systems, they can quickly adapt and keep serving their customers.

“I’ve heard from people in Lee how grateful they were to still be able to get good food and how the restaurants worked to accommodate everyone,” she said, adding that the quick adaptation to takeout kept people employed “even though everyone still needs more workers.”

Looking ahead to other projects in town, plans are moving forward for a bike path that would run along the Housatonic River. The mile-long path would extend approximately from Big Y to Lee Bank. Brittain said it’s not certain if construction will begin this year, but the town is working with MassDOT to keep the project moving.

“We had lots of people come to Lee who were eating in our restaurants, staying in our hotels, and shopping in our stores, so we were pretty happy about the fall.”

Lee has also applied to become an Appalachian Trail Community. According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website, when a town along the trail receives designated community status, it is considered a support asset for all who use the trail, and the conservancy encourages people to explore these communities. If accepted, Lee looks to join Western Mass. communities of Cheshire, Dalton, Great Barrington, and North Adams with the designation.

“We’ve been working with the Appalachian Trail folks, and we’re hoping Lee receives its designation by the end of the year,” Brittain said.

 

 

Seeking a Return to Normalcy

For the past two years, Lee had to cancel its annual Founders Weekend celebration — which recognizes the founding of the town back in 1777 — due to COVID concerns. Henry said people in town treat it as a fun birthday celebration, and in 2022, the town will be 245 years old.

Held on the third weekend in September, the community-wide event takes place on Main Street, which is closed to traffic to allow restaurants and other vendors to set up in the middle of the street.

“Founders Weekend always draws a huge crowd, and that’s why we were not able to hold it the last two years. It was too difficult to keep such a large gathering safe,” Henry said.

While there is no guarantee Founders Weekend will happen this year, she has it listed in her event calendar, and both she and Brittain are hopeful the event will take place in September.

“I think people are ready for a fun blowout weekend,” Henry said. “We’re all looking forward to it.”

Commercial Real Estate

COVID and Property Value

By Laura Bellotti Cardillo

 

Laura Bellotti Cardillo

Laura Bellotti Cardillo

When property-tax assessments in Massachusetts came out at the end of 2020, many business owners were surprised to find their values had stayed the same or increased. Those assessments were premised on income and expense data from calendar year 2019, and therefore did not factor in the beginnings of the economic impact of the pandemic.

Now that property-tax assessments for fiscal year 2022 are being determined, commercial property owners whose real-estate assets were negatively impacted by the pandemic should take another look. Assessors must rely on calendar year 2020 income and expense data to determine current values and assessments, and after almost two years of living with COVID-19, the question remains whether the pandemic is a temporary anomaly or the economic impact will be of longer duration.

If your commercial real estate has been hit hard by the pandemic, here are some best practices that could help you achieve a reduction in your property assessment and lower your real-estate taxes.

 

Provide Extra Data and Projections

If the pandemic has continued to hamper your property’s performance through 2021, provide data through the third quarter of this year. While the assessment is based on numbers through year-end 2020, proof that things have not improved undercuts the argument that the pandemic is merely a blip.

Projections for 2022, 2023, and 2024 can be helpful in this regard as well. Many industries anticipate that a full recovery will take years. Demonstrating that you are not anticipating a swift bounce-back can support your argument that a reduction now is warranted.

“If the pandemic has continued to hamper your property’s performance through 2021, provide data through the third quarter of this year. While the assessment is based on numbers through year-end 2020, proof that things have not improved undercuts the argument that the pandemic is merely a blip.”

 

Document Use of PPP and Other Relief Funds

In some cases, assessors have asked if businesses received funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or other relief initiatives. It is highly unlikely that these funds would have been used in a way that would increase the value of your real estate, so they should not factor into the fiscal year 2022 assessment.

Because PPP was designed specifically to cover payroll, utilities, and operating expenses, demonstrating in detail how these funds were spent (using materials you likely already have from your loan-forgiveness application) should help assessors put the receipt of these funds in proper context.

 

Values and Assessments Can Change Annually

Municipalities in Massachusetts have the ability to adjust assessments annually. Because values can be recalibrated year to year, now is the time for assessors to lower the values for the commercial property types hit hard by the pandemic.

Assuming certain commercial real-estate markets have begun to tick back up already or will begin to do so in 2022, assessors can make the necessary adjustments if and when the various sectors of the commercial property market roar back to life.

 

Laura Bellotti Cardillo is vice chair of the property-tax and valuation practice at Pullman & Comley. She heads the law firm’s Springfield office.

Real Estate

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

FRANKLIN COUNTY

BERNARDSTON

525 Bald Mountain Road
Bernardston, MA 01337
Amount: $1,100,000
Buyer: Michael P. Cohrs
Seller: Scott M. Digeorge
Date: 12/20/21

19 South St.
Bernardston, MA 01337
Amount: $350,000
Buyer: Alexander F. Fiorey
Seller: Paul C. Skiathitis
Date: 12/22/21

BUCKLAND

25 Birch Road
Buckland, MA 01370
Amount: $375,000
Buyer: Joseph Moynihan
Seller: Raymond E. Scott
Date: 11/29/21

30 Franklin St.
Buckland, MA 01338
Amount: $271,600
Buyer: Melissa Plesnar
Seller: William Leitner
Date: 12/03/21

8 Goodnow Road
Buckland, MA 01370
Amount: $115,000
Buyer: Honor Mosher
Seller: Mosher, Constance Z. B., (Estate)
Date: 12/20/21

COLRAIN

121 Call Road
Colrain, MA 01340
Amount: $140,000
Buyer: Sarah Davenport
Seller: Brothers, Sr. Duane E., (Estate)
Date: 12/20/21

205 Greenfield Road
Colrain, MA 01340
Amount: $440,000
Buyer: Richard R. Hebert
Seller: C. Leigh Morrell
Date: 11/30/21

16 High St.
Colrain, MA 01340
Amount: $138,000
Buyer: Yolanda Romero
Seller: Preecha Srisupa
Date: 12/22/21

2701 Shelburne Falls Road
Conway, MA 01341
Amount: $240,000
Buyer: John Berard
Seller: Bear River Investments LLC
Date: 11/30/21

3 York Road
Colrain, MA 01340
Amount: $215,000
Buyer: Cory M. Dale
Seller: Lori Regienus
Date: 12/03/21

DEERFIELD

Conway Road
Deerfield, MA 01342
Amount: $636,500
Buyer: Matthew Ramon
Seller: Joann M. Denehy
Date: 11/30/21

19 Graves St.
Deerfield, MA 01373
Amount: $310,000
Buyer: Michael C. Pascoe
Seller: John W. Kinchla
Date: 11/30/21

Greenfield Road
Deerfield, MA 01342
Amount: $636,500
Buyer: Matthew Ramon
Seller: Joann M. Denehy
Date: 11/30/21

250 Greenfield Road
Deerfield, MA 01373
Amount: $350,000
Buyer: Dale & Jay Whitney LLC
Seller: Doris A. Bilodeau TR
Date: 12/21/21

252 Lower Road
Deerfield, MA 01342
Amount: $400,000
Buyer: Sara A. Simmons
Seller: Jocelin Cesar
Date: 12/17/21

Mill Village Road
Deerfield, MA 01342
Amount: $636,500
Buyer: Matthew Ramon
Seller: Joann M. Denehy
Date: 11/30/21

176 North Main St.
Deerfield, MA 01373
Amount: $636,500
Buyer: Matthew Ramon
Seller: Joann M. Denehy
Date: 11/30/21

123 River Road
Deerfield, MA 01373
Amount: $720,000
Buyer: Dawn Tenney
Seller: Lois S. Gates
Date: 12/01/21

Route 10
Deerfield, MA 01342
Amount: $350,000
Buyer: Dale & Jay Whitney LLC
Seller: Doris A. Bilodeau TR
Date: 12/21/21

Route 5
Deerfield, MA 01342
Amount: $350,000
Buyer: Dale & Jay Whitney LLC
Seller: Doris A. Bilodeau TR
Date: 12/21/21

19 West St.
Deerfield, MA 01373
Amount: $230,000
Buyer: Charles E. Stacy
Seller: David Prystasz
Date: 11/30/21

ERVING

3 Central St.
Erving, MA 01344
Amount: $282,900
Buyer: Alma J. Escott
Seller: Franklin Technical School
Date: 12/03/21

GILL

20 Walnut St.
Gill, MA 01354
Amount: $235,000
Buyer: Andrew Paige
Seller: Harris IRT
Date: 12/17/21

GREENFIELD

345 Chapman St.
Greenfield, MA 01301
Amount: $257,500
Buyer: Justin R. Ducharme
Seller: Brunette, Steven P., (Estate)
Date: 12/20/21

638 Colrain Road
Greenfield, MA 01301
Amount: $580,000
Buyer: Old Gorge NT
Seller: Starkey, Richard E., (Estate)
Date: 12/17/21

309 Conway St.
Greenfield, MA 01301
Amount: $290,000
Buyer: Chankroeusna Kry
Seller: Peter Lapa
Date: 12/22/21

176 Federal St.
Greenfield, MA 01301
Amount: $300,000
Buyer: ZN Realty LLC
Seller: Alexander F. Fiorey
Date: 12/17/21

16 Oak Hill Road
Greenfield, MA 01301
Amount: $360,000
Buyer: Louis Vinci
Seller: Arthur R. Sumner
Date: 12/03/21

39 Phillips St.
Greenfield, MA 01301
Amount: $207,000
Buyer: Jason R. Penfield
Seller: Robert G. Penfield
Date: 12/17/21

36 Sunset Square
Greenfield, MA 01301
Amount: $495,000
Buyer: John P. Doleva
Seller: Matthew D. Parody
Date: 12/01/21

51 Vernon St.
Greenfield, MA 01301
Amount: $299,000
Buyer: Kelley Ives
Seller: Eagle Home Buyers LLC
Date: 12/20/21

53 Washburn Ave.
Greenfield, MA 01301
Amount: $350,000
Buyer: Gwen Gannon
Seller: Monkeith E. Arnold
Date: 12/21/21

33 Washington St.
Greenfield, MA 01301
Amount: $140,000
Buyer: Bonnie J. Tuthill
Seller: Grink TR
Date: 11/30/21

55 White Birch Ave.
Greenfield, MA 01301
Amount: $240,000
Buyer: Jessica A. Barnes
Seller: Darlene A. Holland
Date: 12/17/21

HAWLEY

10 Forge Hill Road
Hawley, MA 01339
Amount: $690,000
Buyer: Adam L. Littman
Seller: Craig Shrimpton
Date: 11/30/21

12 Forge Hill Road
Hawley, MA 01339
Amount: $690,000
Buyer: Adam L. Littman
Seller: Craig Shrimpton
Date: 11/30/21

HEATH

11 Bellor Road
Heath, MA 01346
Amount: $450,000
Buyer: 11 Bellor LLC
Seller: Gallup INT
Date: 12/20/21

8 West Main St.
Heath, MA 01346
Amount: $195,000
Buyer: Donald Lebreux
Seller: Lisa C. Burke
Date: 11/30/21

LEYDEN

240 Eden Trail
Leyden, MA 01337
Amount: $299,900
Buyer: Carol Michelfelder
Seller: Pedro J. Borgos
Date: 12/21/21

MONTAGUE

5 Bulkley St.
Montague, MA 01376
Amount: $255,000
Buyer: Sandi H. Graves
Seller: Mary K. Dillon RET
Date: 11/30/21

128 East Chestnut Hill Road
Montague, MA 01351
Amount: $265,000
Buyer: Richard Drohen
Seller: Deborah A. Rose
Date: 12/21/21

18 Highland St.
Montague, MA 01349
Amount: $311,000
Buyer: Emily Tareila
Seller: Jonathan M. Kopera
Date: 12/17/21

46 Vladish Ave.
Montague, MA 01376
Amount: $200,000
Buyer: Jeffrey E. Burt
Seller: Burt Family Trust
Date: 12/23/21

NEW SALEM

185 Moosehorn Road
New Salem, MA 01355
Amount: $202,500
Buyer: Todd Blake
Seller: Anna J. Bergmann
Date: 12/01/21

182 Neilson Road
New Salem, MA 01355
Amount: $265,000
Buyer: Nicholas J. Curry
Seller: Anderson, Pauline, (Estate)
Date: 11/29/21

30 New Main St.
New Salem, MA 01355
Amount: $222,000
Buyer: Kathleen J. Lawless
Seller: Susan G. Arnold
Date: 12/21/21

NORTHFIELD

52 Ashuelot Road
Northfield, MA 01360
Amount: $170,000
Buyer: Jared J. Erho
Seller: Susan H. Garland TR
Date: 12/22/21

753 Mount Hermon Station Road
Northfield, MA 01360
Amount: $425,000
Buyer: Jonathan M. Kopera
Seller: Ivan Doncev
Date: 12/20/21

23 Saint Marys St.
Northfield, MA 01360
Amount: $281,000
Buyer: Elaine Toomey
Seller: McCollester INT
Date: 12/03/21

ORANGE

4 Meadow Lane
Orange, MA 01364
Amount: $278,000
Buyer: Francisc Santiago-Rivera
Seller: Glenn A. Skorb
Date: 12/17/21

162 Memory Lane
Orange, MA 01364
Amount: $120,000
Buyer: Dana Soroka
Seller: Pamela J. Bellar
Date: 12/17/21

70 Prentiss St.
Orange, MA 01364
Amount: $200,000
Buyer: Prentiss Street Real Estate LLC
Seller: Brian R. Newton
Date: 12/03/21

91 West River St.
Orange, MA 01364
Amount: $210,000
Buyer: Patricia M. Lee
Seller: Katherine A. Stemm
Date: 12/22/21

SHELBURNE

208 Smead Hill Road
Shelburne, MA 01340
Amount: $310,000
Buyer: Jeremy L. Johnson
Seller: Robert C. Fish
Date: 12/22/21

SHUTESBURY

409 West Pelham Road
Shutesbury, MA 01072
Amount: $209,000
Buyer: Jeffrey C. Bird
Seller: Bradford Spry
Date: 12/17/21

SUNDERLAND

70 South Main St.
Sunderland, MA 01375
Amount: $535,000
Buyer: Gregory C. Pipczynski
Seller: Thomas F. Devine
Date: 11/30/21

WENDELL

493 New Salem Road
Wendell, MA 01379
Amount: $145,000
Buyer: Douglas Simon
Seller: Sullo, Sandra L., (Estate)
Date: 11/30/21

WHATELY

79 State Road
Whately, MA 01093
Amount: $340,000
Buyer: Glen Skorb
Seller: Andrew F. Gianino
Date: 12/20/21

HAMPDEN COUNTY

AGAWAM

85 Chestnut Lane
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $304,500
Buyer: Adam Gravel
Seller: Andrew S. Mayo
Date: 11/30/21

95 Corey St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $260,000
Buyer: Fisnik Halili
Seller: Hitas, Peter Andrew, (Estate)
Date: 12/22/21

102 Cricket Road
Agawam, MA 01030
Amount: $515,000
Buyer: Lee A. Papadimitriou
Seller: Gary Szczebak
Date: 12/03/21

64 Day St.
Agawam, MA 01030
Amount: $260,000
Buyer: Robert E. Wojcik
Seller: Jeremy D. Kislus
Date: 11/29/21

24 Deering St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $287,500
Buyer: Christine B. Turrini
Seller: David S. Gold
Date: 11/30/21

35-37 Hope Farms Dr.
Agawam, MA 01030
Amount: $300,000
Buyer: Carmino J. Mineo
Seller: Denis H. Surprenant
Date: 12/01/21

117 Maple St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $260,000
Buyer: Karla M. Dejesus
Seller: Joseph T. Martin
Date: 12/03/21

196 Meadow St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $288,000
Buyer: Uduak Enyiema
Seller: Carmino J. Mineo
Date: 11/30/21

1149-1151 North Westfield St.
Agawam, MA 01030
Amount: $335,000
Buyer: Kevin D. Ghareeb
Seller: Dino R. Mercadante
Date: 11/30/21

204-206 North St.
Agawam, MA 01030
Amount: $190,000
Buyer: Vadim Plotnikov
Seller: Jessica Mongeau
Date: 11/29/21

61 Parker St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $267,500
Buyer: Benjamin E. Nuzzolilli
Seller: Andrew Lopez
Date: 12/23/21

80 Ridgeway Dr.
Agawam, MA 01030
Amount: $315,000
Buyer: Ihsan Salman
Seller: McIntyre, Florence A., (Estate)
Date: 11/30/21

375 River Road
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $218,500
Buyer: Donna M. Tauro
Seller: Felicia Germain
Date: 11/30/21

321 Rowley St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $275,000
Buyer: Janice A. Matias
Seller: Marco Scibelli
Date: 11/29/21

23 Samuel St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $535,000
Buyer: Kristina M. Healey
Seller: Charles A. Calabrese
Date: 12/03/21

450 Silver St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $335,000
Buyer: Scott Swenson
Seller: Carl A. Zingarelli
Date: 11/30/21

611 Suffield St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $280,000
Buyer: Thomas A. Montagna
Seller: Deborah Auld
Date: 12/20/21

616 Suffield St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $315,900
Buyer: Timothy A. Bates
Seller: Alyssa L. Febo
Date: 12/20/21

750 Suffield St.
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $270,000
Buyer: Josues DeLeon
Seller: Manchester Enterprises LLC
Date: 11/29/21

23 Walter Way
Agawam, MA 01001
Amount: $450,000
Buyer: Robert A. Oldberg
Seller: Ruslan Kuzmenko
Date: 12/17/21

BLANDFORD

76 Main St.
Blandford, MA 01008
Amount: $245,000
Buyer: Kyle Bean
Seller: Leah A. Priest
Date: 12/02/21

1-R Old Chester Road
Blandford, MA 01008
Amount: $276,000
Buyer: Olamide Oladosu
Seller: Deborah A. Dion
Date: 12/03/21

BRIMFIELD

9 Crestwood Road
Brimfield, MA 01010
Amount: $140,000
Buyer: Paul Dibaro
Seller: Squires, Richard L. Jr., (Estate)
Date: 12/20/21

85 Dunhamtown Palmer Road
Brimfield, MA 01010
Amount: $420,000
Buyer: Judith H. Jaeger
Seller: Charles E. Hornbuckle
Date: 11/30/21

28 East Hill Road
Brimfield, MA 01010
Amount: $667,000
Buyer: Jennifer E. Mormile
Seller: Nicole Escolas
Date: 12/17/21

80 Lyman Barnes Road
Brimfield, MA 01010
Amount: $460,000
Buyer: Daniel McCabe
Seller: Mark E. Kifer
Date: 12/22/21

116 Paige Hill Road
Brimfield, MA 01010
Amount: $862,000
Buyer: Weisheng Xu
Seller: Howlett, Oliver L., (Estate)
Date: 12/20/21

146 Wales Road
Brimfield, MA 01010
Amount: $217,000
Buyer: Joshua A. Patraw
Seller: Everett C. Rubel
Date: 12/20/21

CHESTER

146 Bromley Road
Chester, MA 01050
Amount: $267,000
Buyer: Aaliyah DeJesus
Seller: Eugene L. Turner
Date: 12/23/21

CHICOPEE

89 9th Ave.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $270,000
Buyer: Center For Human Development Inc.
Seller: Elaine A. Delisle
Date: 11/30/21

9th Ave. #654
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $270,000
Buyer: Center For Human Development Inc.
Seller: Elaine A. Delisle
Date: 11/30/21

17 Adams St.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Amount: $900,000
Buyer: Esha Farm LLC
Seller: Deslauries, David, (Estate)
Date: 12/23/21

27 Adams St.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Amount: $900,000
Buyer: Esha Farm LLC
Seller: Deslauries, David, (Estate)
Date: 12/23/21

21 Alvord Ave.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $265,000
Buyer: 21 Alvord Ave. LLC
Seller: Kirby A. Ward
Date: 12/03/21

57 Baltic Ave.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $295,500
Buyer: Luis A. Reyes
Seller: Bruce R. Brun
Date: 12/17/21

8 Bennett St.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Amount: $270,000
Buyer: Nancy E. Gosselin
Seller: Andrea Theriault
Date: 12/03/21

126 Bostwick Lane
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $235,000
Buyer: Tracey C. Ward
Seller: Denis Andre
Date: 12/02/21

24 Cadieux Ave.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $199,900
Buyer: Nanette E. Figueroa
Seller: Lena J. Lamagdeleine
Date: 12/03/21

92 Carew St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $221,000
Buyer: Matthew L. Flood
Seller: Michael S. Miner
Date: 12/02/21

247 Carew St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $199,900
Buyer: Michael N. Penna
Seller: Paul T. Gebbie
Date: 12/02/21

449 Chicopee St.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Amount: $290,000
Buyer: Yailene Otero
Seller: Robert W. Yates
Date: 12/17/21

818 Chicopee St.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Amount: $900,000
Buyer: Esha Farm LLC
Seller: Deslauries, David, (Estate)
Date: 12/23/21

939 Chicopee St.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Amount: $1,200,000
Buyer: KOR Realty LLC
Seller: Standex International Corp.
Date: 12/17/21

132 Clairmont Ave.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Amount: $245,000
Buyer: Stephanie D. Lepsch
Seller: Dan G. Wilder
Date: 12/23/21

711 East Main St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $10,471,450
Buyer: Agilent Technologies Inc.
Seller: Oxford Investment LLC
Date: 12/21/21

391 Front St.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Amount: $385,000
Buyer: Victor J. Garriga
Seller: Phoenix Development Inc.
Date: 11/30/21

292 Frontenac St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $322,000
Buyer: Tasha Rivera
Seller: Miguel Rodriguez-Cortes
Date: 12/22/21

110 Hampden St.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Amount: $270,000
Buyer: Amyleeann Muniz
Seller: Wendy S. Markham
Date: 12/17/21

281 James St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $135,000
Buyer: Vantage Home Buyers LLC
Seller: Revampit LLC
Date: 12/02/21

97 Lombard St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $190,000
Buyer: Kaali Huang LLC
Seller: Hartling, Evelyn L., (Estate)
Date: 12/20/21

307 Mandalay Road
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $272,000
Buyer: Felix Andino
Seller: Kristen M. Gauthier
Date: 12/17/21

28 Marble Ave.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Amount: $226,101
Buyer: Tyler Vaccaro
Seller: John F. Barry
Date: 12/21/21

70 Medford St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $236,000
Buyer: Nana K. Agyemang-Duah
Seller: Linda L. Parlee-Chowns
Date: 12/17/21

1692 Memorial Dr.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $425,000
Buyer: MD&PB Properties LLC
Seller: 896-900 Prospect St. Inc.
Date: 12/20/21

704 Memorial Dr.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $625,000
Buyer: AG Brothers LLC
Seller: Kyprea LLC
Date: 12/23/21

46 Mount Vernon Road
Chicopee, MA 01013
Amount: $440,000
Buyer: Natanael Crespo
Seller: Ganna Boyko
Date: 12/20/21

88 Narragansett Blvd.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Amount: $148,000
Buyer: Arben Keka
Seller: Erik T. Pereira
Date: 12/20/21

196 Pendleton Ave.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $216,000
Buyer: Jeremy A. Torres
Seller: Kevin A. Jemiolo
Date: 12/03/21

80 Providence St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $340,000
Buyer: Vianiee Gonzalez
Seller: Cy Group LLC
Date: 12/02/21

584 Sheridan St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $400,000
Buyer: Franky Soto
Seller: DGL Properties LLC
Date: 11/30/21

85 Southwick St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $310,000
Buyer: Luise M. Nieves
Seller: Thomas E. Dart
Date: 12/20/21

47 Taylor St.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $268,000
Buyer: Jose M. Casimiro
Seller: Melissa Grasakis
Date: 12/01/21

40 Warregan St.
Chicopee, MA 01013
Amount: $245,000
Buyer: William Gonzalez-Crespo
Seller: Jacqueline Rivera
Date: 12/17/21

25 Western Ave.
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $271,000
Buyer: Joel E. Duron-Coca
Seller: Richard B. Elmer
Date: 12/17/21

1628 Westover Road
Chicopee, MA 01020
Amount: $308,000
Buyer: Maria I. Rosario-Torres
Seller: Michele T. Oparowski
Date: 12/17/21

2024 Westover Road
Chicopee, MA 01022
Amount: $900,000
Buyer: Steel City Sisters Group
Seller: Lee Regional Visiting
Date: 12/03/21

EAST LONGMEADOW

Bella Vista Dr. #14
East Longmeadow, MA 01028
Amount: $204,900
Buyer: Adnan Dahdul
Seller: John J. Papale
Date: 12/20/21

27 Bunker Circle
East Longmeadow, MA 01108
Amount: $421,000
Buyer: Octavio Seijas
Seller: David S. Preste
Date: 12/01/21

11 Edmund St.
East Longmeadow, MA 01028
Amount: $316,000
Buyer: Margaret G. Finnegan
Seller: Robert A. Black
Date: 11/29/21

25 Granby St.
East Longmeadow, MA 01028
Amount: $237,500
Buyer: 25 Granby Street LLC
Seller: John Occhialini
Date: 12/21/21

37 High St.
East Longmeadow, MA 01028
Amount: $252,000
Buyer: Bryce A. Peritz
Seller: Thomas J. Stewart
Date: 12/23/21

12 Holly Dr.
East Longmeadow, MA 01028
Amount: $305,000
Buyer: Dennis A. Zambrano
Seller: Alan Notre
Date: 12/23/21

245 Maple St.
East Longmeadow, MA 01028
Amount: $269,000
Buyer: Joaquim Costa
Seller: Michael J. Cook
Date: 11/30/21

14 Peachtree Road
East Longmeadow, MA 01028
Amount: $650,000
Buyer: Charles W. Suglia
Seller: Paul D. Traina
Date: 12/03/21

48 Pine Grove Circle
East Longmeadow, MA 01028
Amount: $765,000
Buyer: Victoria K. Pepper
Seller: Karen M. Phelan
Date: 12/02/21

216 Somers Road
East Longmeadow, MA 01028
Amount: $300,000
Buyer: Angel L. Vega-Maldonado
Seller: Steven M. Suse
Date: 12/03/21

48 Tufts St.
East Longmeadow, MA 01108
Amount: $470,000
Buyer: Lauren J. Heaton
Seller: Darlene M. Demorad
Date: 11/30/21

62 Tufts St.
East Longmeadow, MA 01108
Amount: $370,000
Buyer: Nana Anowuo
Seller: FNMA
Date: 12/17/21

GRANVILLE

128 Crest Lane
Granville, MA 01034
Amount: $430,000
Buyer: Benjamin J. Reddall
Seller: Shaun Troy
Date: 12/17/21

1542 Main Road
Granville, MA 01034
Amount: $220,000
Buyer: Morgan K. Ireland
Seller: Deborah A. Dallaire
Date: 12/22/21

19 Old Westfield Road
Granville, MA 01034
Amount: $245,000
Buyer: Timothy E. Fedora
Seller: Juan Ochoa
Date: 12/23/21

290 Water St.
Granville, MA 01034
Amount: $400,000
Buyer: Autumn Allen
Seller: Terry A. Dillon
Date: 12/03/21

HAMPDEN

51 Genevieve Dr.
Hampden, MA 01036
Amount: $300,000
Buyer: Tia Lafromboise
Seller: Brittany A. Moreland
Date: 12/03/21

180 Glendale Road
Hampden, MA 01036
Amount: $345,000
Buyer: Wayne E. Phaneuf
Seller: Prior, Jacqueline J., (Estate)
Date: 12/23/21

357 North Road
Hampden, MA 01036
Amount: $635,000
Buyer: Jason P. Dionne
Seller: Kenneth J. Berthiaume
Date: 11/29/21

HOLLAND

21 Craig Road
Holland, MA 01521
Amount: $650,000
Buyer: John D. Sciacca
Seller: Preston J. Gilpatrick
Date: 11/30/21

23 Craig Road
Holland, MA 01521
Amount: $671,000
Buyer: Anthony A. Marini
Seller: Mark S. Yaglowski
Date: 12/03/21

34 Craig Road
Holland, MA 01521
Amount: $150,000
Buyer: Mary C. Scannell
Seller: Michael J. Woznicki
Date: 11/30/21

56 Kimball Hill Road
Holland, MA 01521
Amount: $296,900
Buyer: Sara Meier
Seller: Scribner Management LLC
Date: 11/30/21

HOLYOKE

4 Anderson Ave.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $270,000
Buyer: Sierra Vaughan-Gabor
Seller: Angela T. Sweeney
Date: 12/02/21

77 Brookline Ave.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $299,900
Buyer: Lucila Bruno
Seller: Martinelli Martini & Gallag
Date: 12/21/21

139 Hillside Ave.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $205,000
Buyer: Hattie L. Adastra
Seller: Meghann A. Jurkowski
Date: 12/23/21

102 Homestead Ave.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $215,000
Buyer: Nathan B. Lapointe
Seller: Eric M. Rogers
Date: 11/30/21

366 Homestead Ave.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $265,000
Buyer: Francisco Rivera
Seller: Ethel M. Kennedy
Date: 12/17/21

34 King St.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $210,000
Buyer: Tyler C. Nelson
Seller: Linda L. Audet
Date: 12/20/21

2133 Northampton St.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $259,900
Buyer: Jordan Dill
Seller: Adam J. Braunschweig
Date: 12/03/21

1 Park Slope
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $289,900
Buyer: Danielle Schmidt
Seller: L. Mara Dodge
Date: 11/30/21

63 Pine St.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $135,000
Buyer: Nathaniel James
Seller: Lisette Velez
Date: 12/17/21

13 Roland St.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $239,000
Buyer: Daniel R. Poulin
Seller: Michael J. Fitzgerald
Date: 12/02/21

20 School St.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $228,000
Buyer: Nelson Figueroa
Seller: Lisa Rosario
Date: 11/30/21

95 Wedgewood Ter.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $214,000
Buyer: Katrina Turner
Seller: Jorge R. Diaz-Figueroa
Date: 11/29/21

108-110 West St.
Holyoke, MA 01040
Amount: $235,000
Buyer: Dorline Diaz-Garay
Seller: 4 Harps LLC
Date: 12/22/21

LONGMEADOW

32 Arcadia St.
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $347,800
Buyer: Robert Mimaki
Seller: Nancy E. Croteau
Date: 12/17/21

Arcadia St.
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $345,000
Buyer: Vicki L. Shotland
Seller: Orr, Sara J., (Estate)
Date: 12/17/21

242 Burbank Road
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $320,000
Buyer: Marta Flavin
Seller: Brett D. Pendragon
Date: 12/01/21

56 Cambridge Circle
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $325,000
Buyer: Custom Home Development Group LLC
Seller: Leon W. Bailey
Date: 11/30/21

153 Edgewood Ave.
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $287,500
Buyer: Joseph P. Kocot
Seller: Lauren J. Heaton
Date: 11/30/21

42 Elm Ave.
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $299,900
Buyer: Grace V. Helmich
Seller: Benjamin J. Barker
Date: 12/21/21

142 Elmwood Ave.
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $223,500
Buyer: Edward F. Cassell
Seller: Swinski, Kenneth S., (Estate)
Date: 12/22/21

101 Ely Road
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $700,000
Buyer: Evan Dalton
Seller: Mingqi He
Date: 12/20/21

182 Englewood Road
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $325,000
Buyer: Larry R. Cloutier
Seller: Nissenbaum, Steven A., (Estate)
Date: 12/23/21

11 Forest Glen Road
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $325,000
Buyer: Rabih E. Yafawi
Seller: Baiqing Li
Date: 12/03/21

126 Greenacre Ave.
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $250,000
Buyer: Jane Barrett
Seller: Tower, Anne M., (Estate)
Date: 12/03/21

162 Greenmeadow Dr.
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $450,000
Buyer: Jennifer M. Hirst
Seller: Hsiang-Ching Kung
Date: 12/20/21

267 Kenmore Dr.
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $320,000
Buyer: Brandon Harris
Seller: Robert L. Suttmiller
Date: 12/17/21

217 Laurel St.
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $420,000
Buyer: Randolph S. Yanoshak
Seller: Lauren Rollins
Date: 12/01/21

21 Lincoln Road
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $361,000
Buyer: Tai T. Huynh
Seller: Rajendrasinh S. Mahida
Date: 12/17/21

857 Longmeadow St.
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $755,000
Buyer: Benjamin Kraus
Seller: Robert A. Walsh
Date: 12/20/21

168 Maple Road
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $285,000
Buyer: Alan Notre
Seller: Samantha M. Dubner
Date: 12/23/21

737 Maple Road
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $295,000
Buyer: VK Heritage LLC
Seller: Sandra L. Olko
Date: 12/17/21

111 Nevins Ave.
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $295,000
Buyer: Saosokrith Pech
Seller: Brianna J. Butcher
Date: 12/21/21

184 Nevins Ave.
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $193,000
Buyer: SA Holding 2 LLC
Seller: David Ronaldson
Date: 12/22/21

216 Overbrook Road
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $1,137,500
Buyer: Daniel M. Flynn
Seller: R. Scott Smith
Date: 12/17/21

103 Quinnehtuk Road
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $602,500
Buyer: Syed M. Owais
Seller: James A. Fehily
Date: 11/30/21

89 Silver Birch Road
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $560,000
Buyer: O. Nadazdin-Boskovic
Seller: Michael R. Kessler
Date: 12/17/21

125 South Ave.
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $350,000
Buyer: Edward J. Thomas
Seller: Paul F. McLaughlin
Date: 12/17/21

26 Tennyson Dr.
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $822,000
Buyer: Rakesh Talati
Seller: Lisa M. Campbell
Date: 12/02/21

359 Williams St.
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $475,000
Buyer: Jeffrey Murdock
Seller: John G. Bagley
Date: 12/20/21

173 Wolf Swamp Road
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Amount: $275,000
Buyer: Zachary Ferrara
Seller: Robin S. Odentz
Date: 12/23/21

LUDLOW

1st Ave.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $754,500
Buyer: Brownbox Properties LLC
Seller: Westmass Area Development Corp.
Date: 12/17/21

549 Alden St.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $208,884
Buyer: Bank Of America
Seller: Patricia A. Messier
Date: 12/21/21

41 Arch St.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $265,000
Buyer: Kyle Roy
Seller: Mary C. Gero
Date: 12/17/21

12 Autumn Ridge Road
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $550,000
Buyer: Arthur Ralph Gaudio TR
Seller: Hemlock Ridge LLC
Date: 12/03/21

132 Barna St.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $263,000
Buyer: Brian Morris
Seller: John Fortune
Date: 11/29/21

52 Bliss St.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $150,000
Buyer: Homestead Connections LLC
Seller: Ahearn, J., (Estate)
Date: 11/30/21

534 Center St.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $750,000
Buyer: Haviland Pond LLC
Seller: Haviland Pond LP
Date: 12/01/21

676 Chapin St.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $250,000
Buyer: Daniel J. Andreas
Seller: Drew R. Ledwith
Date: 11/30/21

1102 East St.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $175,000
Buyer: Joao A. Dias
Seller: Thomas, Amy Elaine, (Estate)
Date: 12/17/21

172 Edison Dr.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $418,000
Buyer: Derya Tanriverdi
Seller: Jeffrey A. Touchette
Date: 12/20/21

150 Highland Ave.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $248,500
Buyer: Barbara E. Thompson
Seller: Michelle Elliot
Date: 12/21/21

70-84 Hubbard St.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $600,000
Buyer: BK Investment LLC
Seller: Gary R. Guilmette
Date: 12/02/21

12 Keith Circle
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $241,000
Buyer: Brenda M. Opielowski
Seller: Matthew G. Nay
Date: 11/30/21

3 Leland Dr.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $670,000
Buyer: Michael P. Richardson
Seller: Michael L. Banville
Date: 12/17/21

125 Munsing St.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $230,000
Buyer: Torretti Builders LLC
Seller: Mary Rarogiewicz
Date: 12/21/21

48 Nash Hill Road
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $359,900
Buyer: Matthew W. Beaudette
Seller: Carole C. Dighello
Date: 12/01/21

41 Stevens St.
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $226,000
Buyer: Grace Dias
Seller: Ruth L. Pancotti
Date: 11/30/21

223 Woodland Circle
Ludlow, MA 01056
Amount: $630,000
Buyer: Raymond MacDonald
Seller: Luis C. Martins
Date: 11/29/21

MONSON

74 Bethany Road
Monson, MA 01057
Amount: $260,000
Buyer: Meghan L. Chotain
Seller: Andrew B. Johnston
Date: 12/20/21

141 Brimfield Road
Monson, MA 01057
Amount: $288,000
Buyer: Peter D. Davenport
Seller: Heather M. Hartman
Date: 11/29/21

29 Bumstead Road
Monson, MA 01057
Amount: $210,000
Buyer: Dominique P. Batiste
Seller: Sheena M. Carney
Date: 12/03/21

4 Carpenter Road
Monson, MA 01057
Amount: $245,000
Buyer: Robert T. Morrin
Seller: Emma Ladd-Shepherd
Date: 11/30/21

47 Cote Road
Monson, MA 01057
Amount: $500,000
Buyer: Trevor E. Wentworth
Seller: Daniel W. Zglobicki
Date: 12/03/21

109 Cote Road
Monson, MA 01057
Amount: $156,000
Buyer: Kenneth Chaplin
Seller: US Bank
Date: 12/02/21

179 Fenton Road
Monson, MA 01057
Amount: $333,000
Buyer: Jason M. Seybold
Seller: PB Partners Development LLC
Date: 12/17/21

28 Main St.
Monson, MA 01057
Amount: $444,244
Buyer: SBA Management LLC
Seller: Margaret S. Glassman
Date: 12/23/21

8 Margaret St.
Monson, MA 01057
Amount: $195,000
Buyer: Karl J. Gunther
Seller: Bonnie E. Turnberg
Date: 12/02/21

231 Munn Road
Monson, MA 01057
Amount: $330,000
Buyer: Gary W. Barrows
Seller: Terri A. Anderson
Date: 11/30/21

16 Pinnacle Road
Monson, MA 01057
Amount: $350,000
Buyer: Kourtney Senquiz
Seller: David P. Ruiz
Date: 12/02/21

43 Robbins Road
Monson, MA 01057
Amount: $325,000
Buyer: Stanley R. Lamb
Seller: Nissenbaum, Steven A., (Estate)
Date: 12/03/21

PALMER

261 Barker St.
Palmer, MA 01080
Amount: $255,000
Buyer: Matthew Brotherton
Seller: Eric M. Nacsin
Date: 12/23/21

25 Belchertown St.
Palmer, MA 01080
Amount: $250,000
Buyer: Chandra Jackson
Seller: David Oliveira
Date: 12/01/21

139 Boston Road
Palmer, MA 01069
Amount: $315,000
Buyer: Richard A. Houle
Seller: Stanley R. Lamb
Date: 12/03/21

141 Breckenridge St.
Palmer, MA 01069
Amount: $315,000
Buyer: Medgine Fleury
Seller: Travis J. Richer
Date: 12/01/21

1084 Central St.
Palmer, MA 01069
Amount: $275,000
Buyer: Nicholas R. Smick
Seller: Ryan P. Ratcliffe
Date: 11/30/21

106 Flynt St.
Palmer, MA 01069
Amount: $237,000
Buyer: Maribel Ortiz
Seller: Laura A. Martin
Date: 12/22/21

8 George St.
Palmer, MA 01069
Amount: $310,000
Buyer: Jenna Dziok
Seller: Aaron McKee
Date: 12/17/21

4037 Hill St.
Palmer, MA 01069
Amount: $355,000
Buyer: Max E. Bock
Seller: Peter J. Kuzontkoski
Date: 11/30/21

2 Pioneer Dr.
Palmer, MA 01069
Amount: $439,700
Buyer: Judith T. Tumusiime
Seller: Dustin T. Hermann
Date: 12/03/21

2014 Quaboag St.
Palmer, MA 01080
Amount: $259,900
Buyer: Allison A. Flebotte
Seller: Brital 1987 LLC
Date: 12/23/21

382 Rondeau St.
Palmer, MA 01069
Amount: $260,000
Buyer: Mandi Laisure
Seller: Brenda M. Opielowski
Date: 11/30/21

RUSSELL

1440 Blandford Road
Russell, MA 01071
Amount: $204,450
Buyer: Rondell Stauffer
Seller: Henry W. Mikucki
Date: 12/01/21

260 Blandford Road
Russell, MA 01070
Amount: $535,900
Buyer: Adam J. Braunschweig
Seller: Jason S. Fiddler
Date: 12/03/21

1441 Blandford Road
Russell, MA 01071
Amount: $210,000
Buyer: Jeffrey Footit
Seller: Jesse M. Veprauskas
Date: 12/22/21

25 Blandford Stage Road
Russell, MA 01071
Amount: $220,000
Buyer: Austin W. Fortier
Seller: Luke Paull
Date: 12/01/21

SPRINGFIELD

375 Allen St.
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $2,223,281
Buyer: Gregory Springfield LLC
Seller: NDA 385 Allen St LLC
Date: 12/03/21

645 Allen St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $299,000
Buyer: Loriann Ruiz
Seller: Theresa A. Zheleznyakov
Date: 12/20/21

127 Ambrose St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $115,000
Buyer: Pascacio Reynoso
Seller: Jose R. Martinez
Date: 12/03/21

35 Andrew St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $179,000
Buyer: Raquel Reyes
Seller: Carlos Duran
Date: 12/02/21

137 Bellevue Ave.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $310,000
Buyer: Fred Swan
Seller: David J. Maradyn
Date: 12/23/21

293 Belmont Ave.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $260,000
Buyer: Ericka Vasquez-Lopez
Seller: Tuan Tran
Date: 12/21/21

486-494 Belmont Ave.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $840,000
Buyer: JK Wave Inc.
Seller: Carriage Funeral Holding Inc.
Date: 12/20/21

855 Belmont Ave.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $220,000
Buyer: Invest Best Lending LLC
Seller: Ether Properties LLC
Date: 12/01/21

79 Benz St.
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $285,000
Buyer: Thi N. Huynh
Seller: Vito M. Dellaera
Date: 12/20/21

586 Berkshire Ave.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $420,000
Buyer: Sanchez Family Enterprises LLC
Seller: David Haluch
Date: 12/01/21

58-60 Bither St.
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $175,000
Buyer: Kevin J. Reilly
Seller: Stephen M. Reilly
Date: 12/17/21

216 Breckwood Blvd.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $230,000
Buyer: Kevin S. Diaz
Seller: Jesmaniel Bermudez
Date: 12/03/21

26 Brookside Circle
Springfield, MA 01129
Amount: $124,000
Buyer: Jorge L. Rodriguez
Seller: Biagio Cordiano
Date: 12/03/21

40 Bulat Dr.
Springfield, MA 01129
Amount: $245,000
Buyer: Loudine Alty
Seller: Felicia Griffin
Date: 11/30/21

25 Burke St.
Springfield, MA 01151
Amount: $290,000
Buyer: Aisha K. Gonzalez
Seller: Veronica M. Reyes
Date: 11/30/21

386-388 Carew St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Amount: $293,000
Buyer: Kimberly Paine
Seller: Paul E. Carmody
Date: 12/02/21

417-419 Carew St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Amount: $250,000
Buyer: Maira Silva
Seller: Cindy R. King
Date: 12/21/21

834 Carew St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Amount: $390,000
Buyer: Kelnate Realty LLC
Seller: 834 Carew Street LLC
Date: 12/03/21

1061 Carew St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Amount: $220,000
Buyer: Jose Colon-Torres
Seller: Denali Properties LLC
Date: 11/29/21

157 Carver St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $225,000
Buyer: Michael Riggins
Seller: Mizraim Rodriguez
Date: 12/03/21

33 Castle St.
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $267,700
Buyer: Rebecca L. Rothberg
Seller: David Lussier
Date: 12/17/21

63 Chauncey Dr.
Springfield, MA 01129
Amount: $120,000
Buyer: Perry Dulude
Seller: Skwisz, R., (Estate)
Date: 12/22/21

17 Chilson St.
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $230,000
Buyer: Paula Medina
Seller: Angel M. Senquiz
Date: 12/02/21

9-11 Cloran St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $310,000
Buyer: Kathiana Mathieu
Seller: Michael Gardner
Date: 12/02/21

117 Cloran St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $145,000
Buyer: Prime Partners LLC
Seller: Estella M. Lyons
Date: 12/03/21

95 Clough St.
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $265,000
Buyer: Victor Diaz
Seller: Joseph J. Neff
Date: 12/02/21

246-248 College St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $255,000
Buyer: Shane A. Rhiney
Seller: Alicia H. Porter
Date: 12/23/21

147 Colton St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $225,000
Buyer: Summers Sunshine
Seller: 147 Colton Street LLC
Date: 12/23/21

595 Cottage St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Amount: $750,000
Buyer: Brockway Realty LLC
Seller: G&R Properties LLC
Date: 12/23/21

24 Craig St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $239,900
Buyer: Khyam Darjee
Seller: Freedom Mortgage Corp.
Date: 12/02/21

30 Craig St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $128,700
Buyer: JCG Investments LLC
Seller: Pennymac Loan Services LLC
Date: 12/20/21

14 Dalton Place
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $171,000
Buyer: Daina Rosa
Seller: Robert V. Swanson
Date: 12/03/21

6 Delaware Ave.
Springfield, MA 01119
Amount: $365,000
Buyer: Jennife Gonzalez-Morales
Seller: Homes RE Vent LLC
Date: 12/02/21

725 Dickinson St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $290,000
Buyer: Chastity Nieves
Seller: Arthur H. Helmus
Date: 12/23/21

17 Earl St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $155,000
Buyer: Romanus C. Maduabuchi
Seller: Michael Molinari
Date: 11/30/21

129 Eddy St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Amount: $205,000
Buyer: Roger J. Ramsey
Seller: Bonnie J. Lynch
Date: 12/22/21

55 Edendale St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Amount: $220,000
Buyer: Normari Rivera
Seller: Equity Trust Co.
Date: 12/20/21

84 Edgewood St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $226,000
Buyer: Maria P. DeLeon
Seller: Hayder Alhamdani
Date: 12/17/21

36 Eldridge St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $140,000
Buyer: Venancio Ramos
Seller: Brenda J. Burgess
Date: 11/29/21

133 Entrybrook Dr.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $270,000
Buyer: Ebonee Ganious
Seller: Roseline C. Chiuwa
Date: 12/23/21

24-26 Ferris St.
Springfield, MA 01151
Amount: $285,000
Buyer: Huiqing Zhu
Seller: Mark T. Laramee
Date: 12/22/21

102 Florida St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $190,000
Buyer: John S. Marrero
Seller: Paula Nowick
Date: 11/30/21

30 Ford St.
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $165,000
Buyer: Anthony C. Demaio
Seller: Kathleen R. Duncan
Date: 12/20/21

148 Glenoak Dr.
Springfield, MA 01129
Amount: $283,500
Buyer: Jose Gonzalez
Seller: James Schmidt
Date: 11/30/21

868 Grayson Dr.
Springfield, MA 01119
Amount: $200,000
Buyer: Ryane Babyak
Seller: William H. Keet
Date: 12/01/21

38 Greenbrier St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $300,000
Buyer: Mohamed Ali
Seller: Victor M. Rojas
Date: 12/01/21

239 Gresham St.
Springfield, MA 01119
Amount: $380,000
Buyer: Magaly Lopez-Ramos
Seller: Bretta Construction LLC
Date: 12/20/21

207 Groveland St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $237,000
Buyer: Jessica M. Laboy
Seller: Stephanie A. Meekin
Date: 12/02/21

19 Hawthorne St.
Springfield, MA 01105
Amount: $195,000
Buyer: Lakisha Collins
Seller: Magdalene Kelly
Date: 12/03/21

228 Hermitage Dr.
Springfield, MA 01129
Amount: $250,000
Buyer: Michael P. Lamoureux
Seller: Bell L., (Estate)
Date: 12/01/21

90 Hillside Dr.
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $250,000
Buyer: Hector R. Rosado
Seller: Mary T. Critelli
Date: 12/02/21

412 Island Pond Road
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $130,000
Buyer: M&F Vazquez Home Improve
Seller: Wilmington Savings
Date: 12/22/21

25 Ivan St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Amount: $155,000
Buyer: Kyle Menard
Seller: John H. Keith
Date: 11/29/21

70 Jonquil Dr.
Springfield, MA 01119
Amount: $243,000
Buyer: Vanessa Lima
Seller: Stephen W. Wyszynski
Date: 11/30/21

60-62 Kamuda St.
Springfield, MA 01151
Amount: $325,000
Buyer: Zhi Huang
Seller: Paula C. Deferreira
Date: 11/30/21

72 Kensington Ave.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $340,000
Buyer: Richard C. Ferullo
Seller: Kan Zhang
Date: 12/03/21

86 Kirk Dr.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $220,000
Buyer: Damaris Melendez
Seller: Frederick Barile
Date: 12/21/21

66 Larchmont St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $250,000
Buyer: Jose M. Riveraortiz
Seller: Madeline Rodriguez
Date: 12/02/21

109-111 Leavitt St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $275,000
Buyer: Angel L. Reyes
Seller: Moises Zanazanian
Date: 11/30/21

1225 Liberty St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Amount: $23,000,000
Buyer: 1277 Liberty 10190746 LLC
Seller: Albany Road Springfield Plaza LLC
Date: 12/22/21

158 Littleton St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Amount: $200,000
Buyer: Juan Bermudez
Seller: James W. Scott
Date: 12/20/21

2460 Main St.
Springfield, MA 01107
Amount: $800,000
Buyer: Isla Associates 1 LLC
Seller: Brightwood Development Corp.
Date: 12/03/21

57 Manchester Ter.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $265,000
Buyer: Jose Rosado
Seller: Albert C. Kalmbach
Date: 11/29/21

8 Marlborough St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $197,000
Buyer: Tyeschiea L. Richards
Seller: Rita Gil
Date: 12/03/21

28 McBride St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Amount: $148,000
Buyer: Jose Cotte
Seller: Smith, Drew M., (Estate)
Date: 12/03/21

53 Merrill Road
Springfield, MA 01119
Amount: $170,000
Buyer: James Poreda
Seller: Garland Smith
Date: 12/21/21

75 Mohegan Ave.
Springfield, MA 01151
Amount: $150,000
Buyer: James J. Silva
Seller: William Harrison
Date: 12/02/21

20 Monticello Ave.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $235,000
Buyer: Dolores Hale
Seller: Arianna L. Cage
Date: 11/30/21

323 Morton St.
Springfield, MA 01119
Amount: $385,000
Buyer: Chloe J. Cincotta
Seller: Homes Real Estate Ventures LLC
Date: 11/30/21

56 Mulberry St.
Springfield, MA 01105
Amount: $289,500
Buyer: Daniel P. Thibeault
Seller: Jennifer Nwaifejokwu
Date: 11/30/21

113 Newland St.
Springfield, MA 01107
Amount: $335,000
Buyer: Friday Williams
Seller: Serge Dikan
Date: 12/21/21

23 North Hood St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $160,000
Buyer: Patrick Ogilvie
Seller: Patricia A. Pepin
Date: 12/01/21

196 Oak Grove Ave.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $230,000
Buyer: Maritza Delgado-Rivera
Seller: Emtay Inc.
Date: 12/03/21

78 Oak St.
Springfield, MA 01151
Amount: $275,000
Buyer: Om Belmont Ave. LLC
Seller: Amaan Realty LLC
Date: 11/30/21

84 Orange St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $256,000
Buyer: Joann Agramonte
Seller: Lisa M. Sarno
Date: 12/17/21

32 Overlea Dr.
Springfield, MA 01129
Amount: $240,000
Buyer: Nediem N. Velez-Acevedo
Seller: Smith, Kathleen M., (Estate)
Date: 11/30/21

24-26 Palmer Ave.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $231,000
Buyer: Belkis Alvarez
Seller: AJN Rentals LLC
Date: 12/22/21

132 Parkerview St.
Springfield, MA 01129
Amount: $242,000
Buyer: Cristiane Fischer
Seller: Richard E. McNabb
Date: 12/03/21

85 Penncastle St.
Springfield, MA 01129
Amount: $274,000
Buyer: Leonard J. Giannetti
Seller: Jason M. Seybold
Date: 12/17/21

23 Pennsylvania Ave.
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $230,000
Buyer: Omar J. Olmo-Valles
Seller: Justin R. Bullard
Date: 12/03/21

31 Pheland St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $250,000
Buyer: Shawn Alexander
Seller: Emmanuel Tete-Donkor
Date: 11/30/21

247 Pheland St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $225,000
Buyer: Maria D. Nunez
Seller: Lissette M. Rivera
Date: 12/22/21

172 Quincy St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $216,000
Buyer: Marilou B. Krause
Seller: Wilson Tejeda
Date: 12/17/21

27 Reed St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $190,000
Buyer: Nikayla A. Chapman
Seller: Gerome K. Gore
Date: 12/20/21

49 Rimmon Ave.
Springfield, MA 01107
Amount: $250,000
Buyer: Michael Martinez
Seller: Ryan Deland
Date: 12/02/21

49-51 Rittenhouse Ter.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $320,000
Buyer: Simone D. DosSantos-Alves
Seller: Allan M. Maende
Date: 12/23/21

34 Rutledge Ave.
Springfield, MA 01105
Amount: $160,000
Buyer: Rodman Capital Group LLC
Seller: Paul R. Stevens
Date: 12/17/21

1200 Saint James Ave.
Springfield, MA 01104
Amount: $130,000
Buyer: Lamont C. Thomas
Seller: Idelramon Izquierdo
Date: 11/30/21

197 Shawmut St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $220,000
Buyer: Hector Martinez
Seller: Christine A. Johnson
Date: 11/29/21

228 Shawmut St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $238,000
Buyer: Victor Lopez
Seller: Round 2 LLC
Date: 11/30/21

33 Sherbrooke St.
Springfield, MA 01104
Amount: $270,000
Buyer: Jose A. Dilone
Seller: Benny Crespo
Date: 12/17/21

60-62 Suffolk St.
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $225,000
Buyer: Wilfredo Arvelo-Ruiz
Seller: Genevieve Construction Development Group
Date: 11/29/21

30 Sumner Ter.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $312,000
Buyer: Orlando Mora
Seller: Kevin J. Kaczynski
Date: 11/29/21

1357 Sumner Ave.
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $213,000
Buyer: Kerri-Ann Warren
Seller: Reinaldo Guzman
Date: 12/20/21

34-36 Sylvan St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $262,000
Buyer: Melinda A. Carey
Seller: Keron K. Baker
Date: 12/20/21

45 Talmadge Dr.
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $253,000
Buyer: Paul F. Carmody
Seller: James J. Silva
Date: 12/02/21

85 Tamarack Dr.
Springfield, MA 01119
Amount: $231,000
Buyer: Idaliz Melendez
Seller: McCarthy, Stephen F., (Estate)
Date: 12/21/21

99 Tavistock St.
Springfield, MA 01119
Amount: $205,000
Buyer: Marie C. Molina
Seller: Cynthia C. Shaughnessy
Date: 12/17/21

71-73 Tulsa St.
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $315,000
Buyer: David J. Audet
Seller: Eric D. Ainsworth
Date: 12/22/21

83 Vann St.
Springfield, MA 01129
Amount: $311,000
Buyer: Julio A. Viruet
Seller: Ryan A. Brown
Date: 12/03/21

Vanness Ave.
Springfield, MA 01101
Amount: $210,000
Buyer: JJJ17 LLC
Seller: JJJ17 LLC
Date: 11/30/21

50 Wason Ave.
Springfield, MA 01107
Amount: $26,762,981
Buyer: Baystate Medical Center Inc.
Seller: Wason Ave. Partners 3 LLC
Date: 12/01/21

241-243 Water St.
Springfield, MA 01151
Amount: $345,000
Buyer: 552 West High LLC
Seller: MS Homes LLC
Date: 12/02/21

245 Water St.
Springfield, MA 01151
Amount: $345,000
Buyer: 552 West High LLC
Seller: MS Homes LLC
Date: 12/02/21

131 Welland Road
Springfield, MA 01151
Amount: $250,000
Buyer: Thomas Noonan
Seller: Debra L. Crepea
Date: 12/23/21

36 Weymouth St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $225,000
Buyer: Trey Cushman
Seller: Mary L. Disantis
Date: 12/21/21

230-232 White St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $330,000
Buyer: Alpina Williams
Seller: Equity Trust Co.
Date: 12/22/21

742-744 White St.
Springfield, MA 01108
Amount: $185,000
Buyer: Geovanni Montesino
Seller: Fred M. Cocchi
Date: 12/20/21

393 Wilbraham Road
Springfield, MA 01109
Amount: $410,000
Buyer: Gama Investments LLC
Seller: Trinh T. Tran
Date: 12/20/21

56 Winding Lane
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $160,000
Buyer: Michelle Stuart
Seller: Harvey, Jay L., (Estate)
Date: 12/03/21

86 Winding Lane
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $272,000
Buyer: Tek B. Budathoki
Seller: Laura A. Braica
Date: 12/20/21

120 Winton St.
Springfield, MA 01118
Amount: $266,000
Buyer: Walter L. Martinez
Seller: SRV Properties LLC
Date: 12/17/21

72 Woodrow St.
Springfield, MA 01119
Amount: $225,999
Buyer: Mary I. Rodriguez
Seller: Jason Nicholson
Date: 11/29/21

1182 Worcester St.
Springfield, MA 01151
Amount: $355,000
Buyer: BRVS LLC
Seller: MS Homes LLC
Date: 12/02/21

1188 Worcester St.
Springfield, MA 01151
Amount: $355,000
Buyer: BRVS LLC
Seller: MS Homes LLC
Date: 12/02/21

1417 Worcester St.
Springfield, MA 01151
Amount: $225,000
Buyer: Porfirio Molina
Seller: Alycar Investments LLC
Date: 12/17/21

787 Worthington St.
Springfield, MA 01105
Amount: $210,000
Buyer: Yarmin G. Colon
Seller: Amat Victoria Curam LLC
Date: 12/03/21

889 Worthington St.
Springfield, MA 01105
Amount: $280,000
Buyer: Nathaniel James
Seller: RWM RE Investment LLC
Date: 12/17/21

SOUTHWICK

64 Buckingham Dr.
Southwick, MA 01077
Amount: $175,000
Buyer: Gloria J. Collazo
Seller: Barowsky, Charles L., (Estate)
Date: 12/21/21

31 Coes Hill Road
Southwick, MA 01077
Amount: $330,000
Buyer: Jesse Veprauskas
Seller: David M. Meyer
Date: 12/23/21

49 Coes Hill Road
Southwick, MA 01077
Amount: $160,000
Buyer: Michael Werman
Seller: Wolfe, Theodore H., (Estate)
Date: 12/01/21

49-R Coes Hill Road
Southwick, MA 01077
Amount: $160,000
Buyer: Michael Werman
Seller: Wolfe, Theodore H., (Estate)
Date: 12/01/21

175 College Highway
Southwick, MA 01077
Amount: $202,500
Buyer: Benjamin V. Arcangeli
Seller: Thomas A. Montagna
Date: 12/17/21

14 Fenton Dr.
Southwick, MA 01077
Amount: $365,000
Buyer: Jarrod N. Goss
Seller: Stephen Pelkey
Date: 12/17/21

89 Hillside Road
Southwick, MA 01077
Amount: $502,000
Buyer: Michael S. Grobe
Seller: Gina M. Page
Date: 12/02/21

18 Shaggbark Dr.
Southwick, MA 01077
Amount: $307,400
Buyer: Daniel J. Gelina
Seller: Keith A. Long
Date: 12/23/21

Silvergrass Lane #11
Southwick, MA 01077
Amount: $142,500
Buyer: Hamelin Framing Inc.
Seller: Fiore Realty Holdings LLC
Date: 12/22/21

Silvergrass Lane #8
Southwick, MA 01077
Amount: $127,500
Buyer: Hamelin Framing Inc.
Seller: Fiore Realty Holdings LLC
Date: 12/22/21

281 South Longyard Road
Southwick, MA 01077
Amount: $439,900
Buyer: Jason S. Fiddler
Seller: Andrew S. Felix
Date: 12/03/21

TOLLAND

120 Brook Lane
Tolland, MA 01034
Amount: $415,500
Buyer: Robert Archer
Seller: Karen E. Mernoff
Date: 12/02/21

WALES

41 Lake George Road
Wales, MA 01081
Amount: $216,300
Buyer: Yakov Kronrod
Seller: Wilmington Savings
Date: 11/30/21

33 Sizer Dr.
Wales, MA 01081
Amount: $390,000
Buyer: Emily Dunbar
Seller: Katie S. Martin
Date: 11/29/21

148 Stafford Road
Wales, MA 01081
Amount: $255,000
Buyer: Michael Delnegro
Seller: Thomas, Robert V., (Estate)
Date: 12/17/21

198 Stafford Road
Wales, MA 01081
Amount: $212,800
Buyer: GJL RNL NT
Seller: Shannon M. Blando
Date: 12/20/21

90 Stafford Road
Wales, MA 01081
Amount: $265,000
Buyer: Jonathan G. Carbonneau
Seller: Mary A. Grueter
Date: 12/22/21

15 Walker Road
Wales, MA 01081
Amount: $235,000
Buyer: Brett A. Ouimette
Seller: Petrie Rubio Ent. LLC
Date: 12/20/21

WEST SPRINGFIELD

35 Armstrong St.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $245,000
Buyer: Caroline Novelli
Seller: Jennife Gonzalez-Morales
Date: 12/02/21

24 Bear Hole Road
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $357,000
Buyer: James R. Regnier
Seller: Morytko, John A. Jr., (Estate)
Date: 12/21/21

62 Blossom Road
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $245,000
Buyer: Sandra E. Pinkham
Seller: Guistina, Rhea C., (Estate)
Date: 12/17/21

99 Bosworth St.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $275,000
Buyer: Nargiza Afrailova
Seller: David F. Piangerelli
Date: 11/30/21

8 Bretton Road
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $414,000
Buyer: Felecia Griffin
Seller: Lane, Nancy E., (Estate)
Date: 11/30/21

323 Cold Spring Ave.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $163,000
Buyer: Lindsay Abdelmaseh
Seller: Harry Kalamarakis
Date: 12/22/21

59 Day St.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $345,000
Buyer: Andrii Tverdokhlib
Seller: Sergey A. Kripakov
Date: 12/17/21

120 Hampden St.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $145,000
Buyer: Alycar Investments LLC
Seller: Abare, Thomas M. Sr., (Estate)
Date: 12/22/21

35 Morningside Ter.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $265,000
Buyer: Raj Dhimal
Seller: Nicholas Larivee
Date: 12/17/21

40 Moseley Ave.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $245,000
Buyer: Kiran Gotamay
Seller: Man B. Rana
Date: 12/03/21

150 Pine St.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $350,000
Buyer: Gagan Naubag
Seller: Mandhoj Gurung
Date: 12/03/21

1407 Piper Road
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $406,500
Buyer: Thomas P. Silva
Seller: Nancy M. Nadeau
Date: 12/01/21

55 Redden Road
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $395,000
Buyer: Erica Cadiz
Seller: Daniel K. Carney
Date: 12/17/21

28 Smith Ave.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $280,000
Buyer: Alexander Shaver
Seller: James P. Nestor
Date: 11/30/21

39 South Blvd.
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $265,000
Buyer: Dream Realty Group LLC
Seller: Nicole E. Eutiquio
Date: 12/22/21

145 Upper Beverly Hills
West Springfield, MA 01089
Amount: $235,000
Buyer: Cecelia Kryzwick
Seller: Denise M. Labelle
Date: 12/23/21

WESTFIELD

45 Breighly Way
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $525,000
Buyer: Alexander Fagnand
Seller: Spencer Loftus
Date: 12/02/21

276 Buck Pond Road
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $250,000
Buyer: Nancy Handy
Seller: Ronald St Marie
Date: 12/17/21

29 Cedar Lane
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $174,305
Buyer: Bank New York Mellon
Seller: Ernest Dupee
Date: 11/30/21

46 Crane Ave.
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $285,000
Buyer: Ismael Rivera-Diaz
Seller: Michael J. Sweeney
Date: 12/02/21

22 Dry Bridge Road
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $246,900
Buyer: Eugene A. Swift
Seller: Daniel J. Gelina
Date: 12/23/21

80 Elizabeth Ave.
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $340,000
Buyer: Lizette Rodriguez
Seller: Donald Appleton
Date: 12/20/21

107 Farnham Lane
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $265,000
Buyer: Vasiliy I. Okhrimenko
Seller: Louis J. Annino
Date: 11/30/21

25 Gary Dr.
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $477,500
Buyer: Marco Liquori
Seller: McGovern, Robert P., (Estate)
Date: 11/30/21

55 Gifford Ave.
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $389,000
Buyer: Nathaniel L. Nunez
Seller: Richard P. Harrison
Date: 12/21/21

187 Granville Road
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $275,000
Buyer: Karen H. Payne
Seller: Alexander D. Fagnand
Date: 12/01/21

19 High St.
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $235,000
Buyer: Brian G. Desilets
Seller: Nathaniel L. Nunez
Date: 12/21/21

46 Janelle Dr.
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $465,000
Buyer: Morgan Sanders
Seller: Brian D. Sanders
Date: 12/23/21

14 Jessie Lane
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $415,000
Buyer: Brian Whitman
Seller: Cassandra Sgueglia
Date: 11/30/21

40 Knollwood Dr.
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $225,000
Buyer: Brice W. Herrick
Seller: Richard W. Gast
Date: 12/17/21

180 Little River Road
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $248,000
Buyer: Daniel Batir
Seller: Anthony C. Bannish
Date: 12/03/21

12 Maria Dr.
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $250,000
Buyer: Ian Sullivan
Seller: Normand V. Champagne
Date: 11/30/21

164 Montgomery Road
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $275,000
Buyer: Mike Covileac
Seller: Wendell P. Dickinson
Date: 12/23/21

49 Northwest Road
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $250,000
Buyer: Peter Garstka
Seller: Eric Harshbarger
Date: 12/17/21

55 Northwest Road
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $235,000
Buyer: Michael Hunt
Seller: Kelly J. Silvestri
Date: 12/02/21

28 Old Feeding Hills Road
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $225,000
Buyer: Katelyn Mcgovern
Seller: Constance B. Carson
Date: 11/29/21

22 Otis St.
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $184,900
Buyer: David L. Letellier
Seller: Stuart M. Conner
Date: 12/01/21

45 Pequot Point Road
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $298,629
Buyer: Kyle J. Cyr
Seller: Egloff, John J. Jr., (Estate)
Date: 12/17/21

19 Princeton St.
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $265,000
Buyer: Kemar Dwaynes-Stephens
Seller: Joseph R. Moynihan
Date: 12/22/21

200 Reservoir Ave.
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $168,165
Buyer: Jay M. Bushey
Seller: Jay M. Bushey
Date: 12/21/21

57 Rosedell Dr.
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $270,000
Buyer: Iris Febres-Dompreh
Seller: Avery J. Sheehan
Date: 12/01/21

222 Russellville Road
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $135,000
Buyer: Jennifer Yanyuk
Seller: Kathryn Cowles
Date: 12/02/21

246 Russellville Road
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $645,000
Buyer: Jennifer Yanyuk
Seller: Kathryn Cowles
Date: 12/02/21

65 Shannon Lane
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $310,000
Buyer: Troy Adams
Seller: Shirley A. White
Date: 12/02/21

309 Southwick Road
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $235,000
Buyer: Charles Beaulieu
Seller: Margaret A. Cavanaugh
Date: 11/30/21

81 Yeoman Ave
Westfield, MA 01085
Amount: $255,000
Buyer: Michael J. Rigali
Seller: Jacqueline Paye
Date: 11/30/21

WILBRAHAM

2 Brooklawn Road
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $400,000
Buyer: Jamie L. Fiorentino
Seller: Kathleen M. Brenner
Date: 12/03/21

4 Daniele Dr.
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $320,000
Buyer: Brendon Fontanella
Seller: Carol Daniele
Date: 11/30/21

8 Dollar Ave.
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $400,000
Buyer: SMC Properties LLP
Seller: Harris Properties LLC
Date: 12/23/21

10 Highridge Road
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $546,000
Buyer: Karen M. Hall
Seller: Catherine W. Labine
Date: 12/20/21

9 Linwood Dr.
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $342,000
Buyer: Marla J. Jarrell
Seller: Barbara Robert
Date: 11/30/21

384 Main St.
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $287,000
Buyer: Andrew A. Jacque
Seller: SK3 Realty LLC
Date: 12/03/21

8 Meadowview Road
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $299,000
Buyer: Michael J. Stirlacci
Seller: Madalena L. Diniz
Date: 12/03/21

15 Southwood Road
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $433,000
Buyer: Jennifer Puhalski
Seller: Susan B. Aiken
Date: 12/22/21

106 Springfield St.
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $320,000
Buyer: Madison M. Chmyzinski
Seller: Melinda S. Oleksiak
Date: 12/17/21

335 Stony Hill Road
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $296,400
Buyer: Vantage Home Buyers LLC
Seller: Katie Klem
Date: 12/01/21

89-91 Stony Hill Road
Wilbraham, MA 01095
Amount: $309,000
Buyer: Stony Hill LLC
Seller: BK Invest LLC
Date: 11/30/21

 

HAMPSHIRE COUNTY

AMHERST

55 Baker St.
Amherst, MA 01002
Amount: $604,055
Buyer: Colin J. Gleason
Seller: Benjamin A. Surner
Date: 11/30/21

1175 Bay Road
Amherst, MA 01002
Amount: $415,000
Buyer: Marco Monoc
Seller: Robert W. Ritchie
Date: 11/30/21

367 Bay Road
Amherst, MA 01002
Amount: $455,000
Buyer: Jarrod Thompson
Seller: Gladys L. Rodriguez
Date: 11/29/21

10 Bridle Path
Amherst, MA 01002
Amount: $460,000
Buyer: Kevin C. Klement
Seller: Oates, Stephen B., (Estate)
Date: 11/30/21

338 College St.
Amherst, MA 01002
Amount: $1,510,000
Buyer: 338 College Street LLC
Seller: Spirit Corp. Of Amherst
Date: 12/01/21

86 Dana St.
Amherst, MA 01002
Amount: $496,500
Buyer: Gonen Dori-Hacohen
Seller: Kenneth W. Samonds
Date: 12/17/21

269 Lincoln Ave.
Amherst, MA 01002
Amount: $340,000
Buyer: Natalie Stephenson
Seller: Zephaniah Varley
Date: 11/30/21

Lindenridge Road #20
Amherst, MA 01002
Amount: $175,000
Buyer: Countryside Home Builders Inc.
Seller: Bercume Construction LLC
Date: 11/29/21

710 Main St.
Amherst, MA 01002
Amount: $280,000
Buyer: Karyad B. Hallam
Seller: Loren Wellesley-Walker
Date: 12/17/21

19 Research Dr.
Amherst, MA 01002
Amount: $736,000
Buyer: Amherst Office Park LLC
Seller: Sand Dollar RT
Date: 12/23/21

46 Sunset Ave.
Amherst, MA 01002
Amount: $950,000
Buyer: Amherst Colleg
Seller: Lucy Wilson Benson RET
Date: 12/17/21

BELCHERTOWN

433 Amherst Road
Belchertown, MA 01007
Amount: $380,000
Buyer: Robert H. Adair
Seller: Diane M. Lemire
Date: 12/20/21

62 Barton Ave.
Belchertown, MA 01007
Amount: $305,000
Buyer: Jake Swinicki
Seller: John M. McCue
Date: 12/21/21

74 Bay Road
Belchertown, MA 01007
Amount: $325,000
Buyer: Benjamin D. Gross IRT
Seller: Thomas A. Bliss
Date: 12/17/21

81 Bay Road
Belchertown, MA 01007
Amount: $257,000
Buyer: Noel E. Acevedo
Seller: John Coelho
Date: 12/17/21

29 Depot St.
Belchertown, MA 01007
Amount: $142,000
Buyer: Antonio Carvalho
Seller: Jared Moriarty
Date: 12/03/21

12 Dogwood Dr.
Belchertown, MA 01007
Amount: $572,000
Buyer: Basil A. Stewart
Seller: Yang Liu
Date: 11/29/21

16 Grela Ter.
Belchertown, MA 01007
Amount: $310,000
Buyer: Gerald S. Bolduc
Seller: Henrichon, Robert J., (Estate)
Date: 12/21/21

56 North Main St.
Belchertown, MA 01007
Amount: $268,000
Buyer: Shawn E. Rivard
Seller: Robert H. Adair
Date: 12/20/21

401 North Washington St.
Belchertown, MA 01007
Amount: $343,000
Buyer: Felicia Siclari
Seller: Heidi M. Bradway
Date: 12/22/21

590 North Washington St.
Belchertown, MA 01007
Amount: $375,000
Buyer: Elizabeth H. Skelly
Seller: Michael Teixeira
Date: 12/17/21

191 Orchard St.
Belchertown, MA 01007
Amount: $279,900
Buyer: David G. Higgins
Seller: Douglas W. Adler
Date: 12/20/21

270 State St.
Belchertown, MA 01007
Amount: $180,000
Buyer: Denise A. Pooler
Seller: Paula M. Kirkpatrick
Date: 12/03/21

60 Woodhaven Dr.
Belchertown, MA 01007
Amount: $425,000
Buyer: Dat H. Nguyen
Seller: Derek M. Sullivan
Date: 11/30/21

CUMMINGTON

1 Honey Hill Road
Cummington, MA 01026
Amount: $189,000
Buyer: Christine M. Brandon
Seller: Bonnie A. Hunt
Date: 12/20/21

75 Mount Road
Cummington, MA 01026
Amount: $486,000
Buyer: Lauren E. Bullis
Seller: John W. Gurney RET
Date: 12/03/21

Trouble St.
Cummington, MA 01026
Amount: $189,000
Buyer: Christine M. Brandon
Seller: Bonnie A. Hunt
Date: 12/20/21

EASTHAMPTON

4 1st Ave.
Easthampton, MA 01027
Amount: $337,500
Buyer: Christopher Heon
Seller: Amberlynn Inglis
Date: 11/30/21

3 Button Road
Easthampton, MA 01027
Amount: $505,000
Buyer: Andrew M. Blefeld
Seller: Debbie L. Patterson
Date: 12/01/21

6 Carol Ave.
Easthampton, MA 01027
Amount: $322,500
Buyer: Jonah S. Vorspan-Stein
Seller: Joseph Korza
Date: 12/17/21

20 Florence Road
Easthampton, MA 01027
Amount: $607,000
Buyer: Dylan Rickles
Seller: Gigi Rentals LLC
Date: 12/21/21

14 High St.
Easthampton, MA 01027
Amount: $275,000
Buyer: Victoria Gumaer
Seller: David Y. Cohen
Date: 11/30/21

17 Laurin Lane
Easthampton, MA 01027
Amount: $417,000
Buyer: Paul McMillan
Seller: Antti R. Kaisla
Date: 12/20/21

1 Louise Ave.
Easthampton, MA 01027
Amount: $340,000
Buyer: Robert Scott
Seller: Cassy A. Cohoon
Date: 12/17/21

18 Strong St.
Easthampton, MA 01027
Amount: $460,000
Buyer: Mario R. Paiva
Seller: Cole R. Pouliot
Date: 12/01/21

34 Ward Ave.
Easthampton, MA 01027
Amount: $315,000
Buyer: Sarah A. Sullivan
Seller: Chelsea M. Dann
Date: 12/17/21

19 Westview Ter.
Easthampton, MA 01027
Amount: $342,000
Buyer: Dale A. Canon
Seller: Andrew M. Blefeld
Date: 12/01/21

GRANBY

10 Deerbrook Dr.
Granby, MA 01033
Amount: $398,000
Buyer: Joyce Beaulieu
Seller: Peter M. Brown
Date: 12/03/21

139 New Ludlow Road
Granby, MA 01033
Amount: $277,500
Buyer: Matthew Appleton
Seller: David B. Rafferty
Date: 12/03/21

5 Norman Ave.
Granby, MA 01033
Amount: $230,000
Buyer: Tedeschi Properties LLC
Seller: Joseph Suleski TR
Date: 11/30/21

7 Pleasant St.
Granby, MA 01033
Amount: $385,000
Buyer: Kevin Musiak
Seller: Harvey A. Smith
Date: 11/30/21

HADLEY

4 Phillips Place
Hadley, MA 01035
Amount: $484,000
Buyer: Jun Wang
Seller: Michael A. Stone
Date: 12/17/21

HATFIELD

2 Prospect Court
Hatfield, MA 01038
Amount: $305,000
Buyer: Mill River Ventures Inc.
Seller: HNE LLC
Date: 12/03/21

4 Prospect Court
Hatfield, MA 01038
Amount: $305,000
Buyer: Mill River Ventures Inc.
Seller: HNE LLC
Date: 12/03/21

164 West St.
Hatfield, MA 01088
Amount: $5,770,000
Buyer: SV Property 1 LLC
Seller: Gleason Johndrow Group LLC
Date: 12/20/21

NORTHAMPTON

212 Chestnut St.
Northampton, MA 01062
Amount: $480,000
Buyer: Amelia S. Moore
Seller: Robert A. Aquadro RET
Date: 12/22/21

547 Easthampton Road
Northampton, MA 01060
Amount: $10,815,000
Buyer: NSA Property Holdings LLC
Seller: Meetinghouse Realty
Date: 12/23/21

30 High St.
Northampton, MA 01062
Amount: $508,000
Buyer: Melissa Revell
Seller: Douglas J. Wheat
Date: 12/01/21

46 Hubbard Ave.
Northampton, MA 01060
Amount: $245,000
Buyer: Kevin G. Cote
Seller: Helene FT
Date: 11/29/21

Kennedy Road
Northampton, MA 01060
Amount: $300,000
Buyer: Robert S. Fletcher
Seller: Robert A. Borawski
Date: 12/21/21

177-181 Main St.
Northampton, MA 01053
Amount: $2,750,000
Buyer: Ampersand Sprout LLC
Seller: Essex Corp.
Date: 11/30/21

10 Michelman Ave.
Northampton, MA 01060
Amount: $475,000
Buyer: Scher Mass. LLC
Seller: Marlene A. Morin
Date: 11/30/21

299 Pleasant St.
Northampton, MA 01060
Amount: $475,000
Buyer: Scher Mass. LLC
Seller: Marlene A. Morin
Date: 11/30/21

45 Prospect Ave.
Northampton, MA 01060
Amount: $650,000
Buyer: Elizabeth B. Hannigan
Seller: Stacey L. Novack
Date: 11/30/21

49 Prospect St.
Northampton, MA 01063
Amount: $536,000
Buyer: Bianca Sena
Seller: Robert P. Hincks
Date: 12/20/21

13 Rust Ave.
Northampton, MA 01060
Amount: $460,000
Buyer: Kate H. Mcintosh
Seller: David A. Paine
Date: 11/30/21

605 Ryan Road
Northampton, MA 01062
Amount: $370,000
Buyer: Thomas P. Keane
Seller: Margaret N. Broughton
Date: 11/30/21

75 Spruce Hill Ave.
Northampton, MA 01062
Amount: $310,000
Buyer: Marc A. Bobrow
Seller: Michael A. Wishnow
Date: 11/30/21

24 Water St.
Northampton, MA 01053
Amount: $405,000
Buyer: Julia Cafritz
Seller: Joseph W. Garland
Date: 12/20/21

81 Water St.
Northampton, MA 01053
Amount: $325,000
Buyer: Linwood A. Williams
Seller: D. & Jeanette Williams FT
Date: 12/03/21

11 Winter St.
Northampton, MA 01060
Amount: $460,000
Buyer: Raquel Kosovske
Seller: Pamela R. Davidson
Date: 12/23/21

PELHAM

25 Shutesbury Road
Pelham, MA 01002
Amount: $247,000
Buyer: Jade River-King
Seller: Anne M. Hazzard
Date: 12/17/21

SOUTH HADLEY

514 Amherst Road
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $340,000
Buyer: Sean Sentenn
Seller: Russell P. Mariani
Date: 11/30/21

43 Dale St.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $333,000
Buyer: Myra Cardona-Grammo
Seller: Raymond J. MacDonald
Date: 11/29/21

5-7 Ingram St.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $331,240
Buyer: Steven A. Carra
Seller: Alexander C. Thiel
Date: 12/17/21

37 Ludlow Road
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $413,800
Buyer: Zachary T. Odonnell
Seller: NAR Realty LLC
Date: 11/29/21

15 Margaret St.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $200,000
Buyer: Michael McLain
Seller: Mary P. Beaudreau
Date: 12/03/21

6 Midway St.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $242,000
Buyer: Marianne Neal-Joyce
Seller: Stephen Friedman
Date: 11/30/21

6 Paul St.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $325,000
Buyer: Robin L. Brochu
Seller: Derek W. Hogan
Date: 11/30/21

33 Pershing Ave.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $305,000
Buyer: Tyler Turschman
Seller: Kathleen M. Nevins
Date: 12/03/21

69 Pond Road
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $184,000
Buyer: James Defond
Seller: Roger Tetreault RET
Date: 12/20/21

9 San Souci Dr.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $540,000
Buyer: Bruce J. Camrie
Seller: Walter W. Haynes
Date: 12/20/21

24 West Parkview Dr.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Amount: $346,700
Buyer: Nickolas E. Anderson
Seller: Lesley M. Kelly
Date: 12/17/21

SOUTHAMPTON

262 County Road
Southampton, MA 01073
Amount: $279,900
Buyer: Olivia Wakefield-Colly
Seller: Emerald City Rentals LLC
Date: 12/01/21

77 Gunn Road
Southampton, MA 01073
Amount: $195,000
Buyer: New England Remodeling
Seller: Cecelia Ann Mantia TR
Date: 12/17/21

69 High St.
Southampton, MA 01073
Amount: $185,000
Buyer: CTNA Construction LLC
Seller: Parsons, David H., (Estate)
Date: 12/22/21

46 Line St.
Southampton, MA 01073
Amount: $359,900
Buyer: Alex P. Morris
Seller: Gail A. Gehm RET
Date: 11/30/21

133 Pomeroy Meadow Road
Southampton, MA 01073
Amount: $400,000
Buyer: Wendy J. Allen
Seller: Joseph G. Lafreniere
Date: 12/02/21

WARE

95 Beaver Road
Ware, MA 01082
Amount: $375,000
Buyer: Robert Burstein
Seller: Brsuo, Richard A., (Estate)
Date: 12/03/21

13 Clifford Ave.
Ware, MA 01082
Amount: $233,900
Buyer: Corrina G. Stoddart
Seller: Kelly M. Millier
Date: 12/21/21

8 Gareau Ave.
Ware, MA 01082
Amount: $245,000
Buyer: Margaret Haluska
Seller: Vernon M. Flynn
Date: 11/30/21

48 Gould Road
Ware, MA 01082
Amount: $139,900
Buyer: Wendy M. Stearns
Seller: Gail M. Martel
Date: 11/30/21

59-63 Pulaski St.
Ware, MA 01082
Amount: $218,621
Buyer: John Paull
Seller: Luke Paull
Date: 12/03/21

252 West St.
Ware, MA 01082
Amount: $1,550,000
Buyer: 5 Apple Mill Lane LLC
Seller: Frank P. Desantis FT
Date: 12/17/21

WILLIAMSBURG

10 Judd Lane
Williamsburg, MA 01096
Amount: $485,000
Buyer: Nicole C. Farach
Seller: Kyle J. Schwartz
Date: 12/02/21

88 Main St.
Williamsburg, MA 01039
Amount: $290,000
Buyer: David M. Nehring
Seller: Darrin E. Pensivy
Date: 12/17/21

19 Williams St.
Williamsburg, MA 01096
Amount: $205,000
Buyer: Jennifer Brotman
Seller: Steven E. Clark
Date: 12/03/21

WESTHAMPTON

288 Chesterfield Road
Westhampton, MA 01027
Amount: $485,000
Buyer: Daniel Perry
Seller: Cynthia Crooks-Garcia
Date: 12/20/21

20 South Road
Westhampton, MA 01027
Amount: $315,000
Buyer: Nicole Demarey
Seller: David W. Demarey
Date: 12/23/21

172 Southampton Road
Westhampton, MA 01027
Amount: $320,000
Buyer: Playe RET
Seller: Jennifer L. Lennon
Date: 12/03/21

WORTHINGTON

217 Huntington Road
Worthington, MA 01098
Amount: $280,000
Buyer: Mary Ott-Dahill
Seller: Kenneth E. Andersen
Date: 12/21/21

Community Spotlight Special Coverage

Community Spotlight

By Mark Morris

Mayor John Vieau

Mayor John Vieau says public safety and public health have been priorities of his first term.

 

Fresh off his re-election, Chicopee Mayor John Vieau said the main goal for his second term is the same when he first campaigned for the office two years ago: a focus on public safety.

“A city can have great schools, great trash pickup, and low taxes, but if you don’t feel safe, those other things aren’t so important,” Vieau said.

In the mid-1980s, Chicopee bolstered its police force by hiring a large number of officers. Nearly 40 years later, the city has seen many of those officers retire from the force, while others have left due to COVID-19 concerns to pursue other careers. For Vieau, this created multiple challenges.

“Based on civil-service exams, we hired 10 replacements for our retiring officers,” he said. “Then we ran into a quagmire because at first we couldn’t send them to the police academy because it was closed during the worst of the pandemic.”

As the academy eased its mandates, those officers completed training, and Vieau has hired an additional 15 officers with the intent of bringing the police force back to full strength.

“A city can have great schools, great trash pickup, and low taxes, but if you don’t feel safe, those other things aren’t so important.”

In addition to new officers, Chicopee is encouraging a new style of policing by introducing community policing at a substation on Center Street. With officers on walking beats, they are better able to make connections with people.

“This has been very successful because people are seeing the same officers who are building relationships and rapport with folks in the neighborhood,” the mayor said, adding that he’s looking to eventually bring a substation to Willimansett as well as other parts of the city.

The concern for public safety also extends to the Fire Department, which staffs two ambulances 24/7. Recently the fire chief suggested a pilot program to add a third ambulance for overnight coverage. The suggestion came about due to demand for more coverage during those hours as well as the closing of the private ambulance company that lent assistance when Chicopee ambulances were busy. The success of the pilot program will result in Chicopee adding a new ambulance along with the new fire pumper trucks that had been ordered.

“Just like with the police, we want to make sure our Fire Department has the tools they need to keep themselves and our city safe,” Vieau said.

Part of public safety includes fighting the spread of COVID-19. Chicopee received 15,000 rapid test kits from the state and has been distributing them to residents in low-income areas and at the senior center.

“Our message remains the same — we believe everyone should get vaccinated,” Vieau said.

 

Supporting Businesses

Keeping Chicopee businesses healthy also remains a priority. Through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, more than 70 businesses received support. Julie Copoulos, executive director of the Chicopee Chamber of Commerce, said her organization helped small-business owners receive more than a half-million dollars in grant money during the pandemic.

“For us, it meant coming back to our core mission of supporting businesses and enhancing the economic climate,” Copoulos said. “Many of the small-business grants went to minority- and women-owned businesses.”

Julie Copoulos is enthusiastic about progress on development at the former Uniroyal and Facemate sites, among others.

The city will also receive $38 million through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Vieau has formed a committee to determine how to use that money in a way that will have a long-term impact for taxpayers in Chicopee.

“For us, it meant coming back to our core mission of supporting businesses and enhancing the economic climate.”

“I have a smart group of people who are looking into the best way to use the ARPA funds,” he said. “We’ve also surveyed residents for their ideas on how to spend the money.”

Vieau wants to proceed with caution on how to use these one-time funds because it would be easy to spend it all in one place.

Chicopee at a Glance

Year Incorporated: 1848
Population: 55,560
Area: 23.9 square miles
County: Hampden
Residential Tax Rate: $16.99
Commercial Tax Rate: $37.39
Median Household Income: $35,672
Median Family Income: $44,136
Type of Government: Mayor; City Council
Largest Employers: Westover Air Reserve Base; J. Polep Distribution Services; Callaway Golf Ball Operations; Dielectrics; MicroTek
* Latest information available

“I could target one infrastructure project and use all that money and more,” he said. “For example, the wastewater treatment plant needs upgrades to keep up with current pollution standards, and that project alone will cost around $50 million.”

For bigger projects like this, Vieau is hopeful about Chicopee’s prospects for funding through the recently passed federal infrastructure deal. “I’m going to fight for as much of that infrastructure money as we can get,” he said.

In the meantime, the mayor shared with BusinessWest an important development regarding the former Uniroyal site. After more than a decade of investing millions of dollars in hazardous-waste cleanup at the site, by this spring, the city will begin looking for potential new owners of both the headquarters and an adjacent building on the site.

“We are all looking forward to getting the Uniroyal property back on the tax rolls,” Vieau said. “It’s been a long time coming, and we are super excited about it.”

Right now Michelin, which owns the Uniroyal brand, is completing $1.5 million in cleanup efforts at the site. Once that’s done, the mayor explained, the city will launch a request for proposals in search of prospective buyers of the property.

Because Chicopee represents a good number of manufacturers, Copoulos believes this gives the city an advantage in the years ahead. She noted that economists have pointed out that manufacturing industries have come back to pre-COVID levels while more customer-facing industries continue to have challenges.

“I’m enthusiastic about the development while also reminding myself to be patient because big projects like this take time.”

“As a community with so many manufacturers, this can potentially give us a leg up,” she said. “Supply-chain issues will make domestic manufacturing more of a priority, and that makes me hopeful about prospects for Chicopee.”

The spring will also mark the beginning of construction for the new headquarters of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. After many years in Hatfield, the Food Bank purchased 16.5 acres in the Chicopee River Industrial Park in order to expand its warehouse in a more environmentally friendly building. Selecting Chicopee was a strategic decision on a couple of fronts. The location on Carew and East Main streets gives the Food Bank easy access to major highways, and because the city is in Hampden County, where the issue of hunger and food insecurity are more severe, the organization is in a better position to address the problem.

“The Food Bank location in Chicopee will be at the hub of addressing food insecurity in Western Mass.,” Vieau said.

Dino Facente

Dino Facente says his bakery’s move from Springfield to Chicopee has been a positive one.

Anticipation is also growing for the former Facemate property in Chicopee Center. Final plans and permits are being approved for a 54,000-square-foot, multi-sport facility; a 102-unit residential building; and renovation of the former Baskin building into a 10,000-square-foot restaurant and brewery, where Loophole Brewing will locate.

Both Vieau and Copoulos praised Singing Bridge LLC, a local developer, for leading the project because it shows a commitment to the success of Chicopee. For Copoulos, completion of the project can’t arrive soon enough.

“I’m enthusiastic about the development while also reminding myself to be patient because big projects like this take time,” she said.

Vieau noted in particular the 102 units of housing that will be added to Chicopee Center.

“Many people want to stay in Chicopee but are looking for empty-nest housing,” he said. “Realtors have told me if more condominiums were on the market, they could immediately sell them.”

 

Stops and Starts

The city had a setback recently when the Silverbrook Group said it may not be able to develop 600 apartments in the former Cabotville Mill in the center of town, citing rising construction costs as the main culprit. Vieau remains optimistic that both the Cabotville and Lyman mills will eventually be developed for housing and other uses.

While the next step for the mills is uncertain, that hasn’t stopped Vieau from moving forward with what he called a renaissance of Chicopee’s downtown. The city received a grant to convert the old library building, adjacent to City Hall, into an incubator space for budding entrepreneurs. The first steps involve bringing the building up to compliance with current ADA regulations. Vieau would like to eventually see the cultural council or the chamber take office space there, too.

“I liked the location because it’s not far from the plaza, and I could keep the customers who enjoyed coming in.”

“Entrepreneurs have to start somewhere, so why not start at our old library?” he wondered.

Next door to the old library, the former Rivoli Theatre has just gone up for sale. The mayor called this another space with great potential for the city.

In addition to new entrepreneurs, Chicopee still manages to attract established businesses to locate there. After decades at the Springfield Plaza, Dino Facente had been looking to move the Koffee Kup Bakery. In his words, he “stumbled on” Mickey’s Bike Shop, which had recently closed. The East Street location turned out to be the right spot to move the bakery.

“I liked the location because it’s not far from the plaza, and I could keep the customers who enjoyed coming in,” Facente said. He also credited Chicopee officials at all levels for making the move easy and successful.

“I’ve picked up a lot of business since I’ve been here,” he said. “I’ll be staying here until I retire.”

Features Special Coverage

By Jodi K. Miller, Esq. and Ryan J. Barry, Esq.

Jodi K. Miller

Jodi K. Miller

Ryan J. Barry

Ryan J. Barry

A woman injures her ankle while jogging and goes to the local emergency department for treatment. Despite her injury, she makes sure to go to a hospital in her health plan’s network. Some weeks later, she receives a significant — and unexpected — bill from an emergency department physician. While the hospital was in her health plan’s network, it turns out the treating physician was not. Her health plan paid a portion of the physician’s charges, but she is responsible for the remainder.

This type of ‘balance’ or ‘surprise’ bill has been an ongoing issue when patients receive care from out-of-network providers, some of whom then bill patients the difference between their charges and the health plan’s benefit payment for out-of-network services. These bills are often a surprise because the patient either was not able to choose an in-network provider or was unaware that the provider was out of network until after the services were rendered.

Recently enacted legislation at the federal level and in Massachusetts attempt to address this issue.

A new federal law, the No Surprises Act, went into effect on Jan. 1. The No Surprises Act imposes requirements on healthcare facilities and providers, as well as on health plans, in three key areas: emergency services, non-emergency services provided by out-of-network providers at in-network facilities, and air ambulance services. When those services are rendered, health plans must make a payment to the out-of-network providers, and patients are responsible only for the cost-sharing obligations they would have incurred had the care been provided in network (e.g., co-payments and deductibles).

If the provider does not accept the health plan’s payment, the plan and the provider must attempt to negotiate a reimbursement rate. If negotiations fail, the plan or the provider can initiate a dispute-resolution process to resolve the issue. In these cases, providers may not bill the patient more than the cost-sharing amount, and they are potentially subject to civil monetary penalties of up to $10,000 per violation if they do so.

The No Surprises Act also provides that out-of-network providers of certain scheduled services may not balance-bill patients unless the provider has given advance notice and obtained written consent from the patient. The act sets out specific requirements for the content of the notice, including a good-faith estimate of the costs incurred and a list of in-network options for the patient. This notice and consent process, however, is not available for out-of-network providers of emergency services and other ancillary services (such as anesthesiology, pathology, radiology, and other diagnostic services), or in circumstances where there no in-network provider is available.

Other provisions of the No Surprises Act, including disclosure requirements for both providers and health plans, also aim to increase transparency and consumer protections. Providers are required to publicly disclose and provide to patients a one-page notice about the balance-billing requirements and prohibitions of the No Surprises Act, as well as state law. As discussed below, Massachusetts, too, has recently imposed new disclosure requirements for providers.

Notably, the protections of the No Surprises Act do not apply to emergency services by ground ambulance providers. In those circumstances, out-of-network ground ambulance providers may still bill patients for significant balances, which are invariably a surprise to patients who had no ability to choose an in-plan ambulance provider in an emergency.
Regulations implementing the No Surprises Act have not been without controversy. Medical associations have criticized the regulations implementing the dispute-resolution process as unfairly favoring health plans. Health plans, on the other hand, have lauded the regulations, maintaining that the process will make healthcare more affordable and avoid unnecessary increases in health-insurance premiums.

On Jan. 1, 2021, Massachusetts passed its own law to address balance billing for non-emergency services. That law, which also took effect on Jan. 1, requires healthcare providers to disclose to patients certain information regarding their participation in patients’ insurance plans and patients’ financial obligations for scheduled procedures and services.

Generally, providers are required to tell patients whether they participate in the patient’s insurance plan. If the provider does not participate in the patient’s plan, the provider must disclose the charges and any facility fees for the procedure or service. The provider must also inform the patient they will be responsible for the charges and any facility fees not covered through the patient’s health plan and that they may be able to obtain the procedure or service at a lower cost from an in-network provider.

The law also imposes new requirements on in-network providers to disclose information to patients regarding charges for procedures or services. Providers must also inform patients if their participation in the patient’s health plan changes during a continued course of treatment and make various disclosures when referring a patient to another provider.

There are two consequences if a provider violates the Massachusetts law. First, if an out-of-network provider fails to provide the required notifications and information, the provider cannot bill the patient at all, except for any co-payment, co-insurance, or deductible that would be payable had the patient received the service from an in-network provider. Second, the commissioner of the Department of Public Health is authorized to fine non-compliant providers up to $2,500 per violation.

The recently enacted federal and state laws seek to provide protections to consumers to avoid inadvertent balance bills from out-of-network providers. As these laws go into effect at the start of the new year, providers and health plans should be ready to implement the requirements, and consumers should see fewer surprises in their mailboxes.

Jodi Miller and Ryan Barry are partners in Bulkley Richardson’s healthcare practice.

Opinion

Opinion

By Olivia Bernstein

More than 4 million youth and young adults experience homelessness annually in this country. It is estimated that at least 700,000 are not part of a family or accompanied by a parent or guardian. Risk factors include family conflict, a youth’s sexual orientation or gender identity, substance use, and school problems.

MHA is among the organizations that recently launched initiatives to address this issue in Massachusetts, where it is said that, on any given day, nearly 500 unaccompanied young people, ages 18 to 24, experience homelessness.

Federal grant money received through our work with the Continuums of Care in Hampden County and the Three County Continuum of Care administered by Community Action of Pioneer Valley (CAPV), which serves Hampshire, Berkshire, and Franklin counties, is funding two MHA projects over a 24-month period that support the needs of homeless youth.

One provides permanent supportive housing for eight beds annually in Springfield, as well as eight in Greenfield, and includes subsidies so participants pay only one-third of their income for rent.

The other, referred to as a Housing Navigation and Rapid Re-housing program, helps youth and young adults navigate services to obtain housing. The program covers rental and related expenses for up to two years for six beds annually.

These projects represent a more comprehensive approach to youth homelessness that provides ongoing rental and individualized case-management support.

In its pioneering report, “More Than Housing, Give Us Homes,” CAPV called youth homelessness a “crisis in our region,” and through $1.96 million in federal funds, it and its partners received a jump start toward ending the crisis. Guiding principles include prioritizing “evidence-based, low-barrier practices, such as housing first, trauma-informed care, and positive youth development.”

As one of CAPV’s partners, MHA couldn’t agree more. This is a population just starting out in life and in need of support, including subsidized housing that is in short supply in the area; services tailored to individualized needs, which may include access to behavioral-health resources; learning life skills such as budgeting; and pursuing employment or educational opportunities.

These youth and young adults, 18 to 24, have experienced more than anyone should have to in their young lives. Some of them have been out on the street or in shelters or exited foster care at 18 with no place to go. Some of them are in unsafe situations and at risk of harm. They may be living with a family member or couch surfing in an unsafe place, and many we serve identify as LGBTQ+. They may not feel accepted by their family or have family relationships that they don’t feel are safe.

MHA is seeing early success in its work with youth involved in both projects. It is, for some, their first time involved with social services, but all are eager to move into the next stage of their lives, which includes more independence and access to housing. Some are continuing a college education, others are seeking employment in their chosen field, and some are in recovery programs.

These young people have shown they are resilient and, like all of us, deserving of a place to call home. We see homelessness all over this country, but it is a huge systemic injustice that anyone should have to live out on the street.

 

Olivia Bernstein is clinical director of Homeless Services at MHA.

Cannabis Cover Story

Rolling Along

Matt Yee and Mark Cutting of Enlite in Northampton

Matt Yee and Mark Cutting of Enlite in Northampton

Massachusetts had already legalized medical marijuana when voters were faced with another question in late 2016: whether to legalize cannabis for recreational use. The vote wasn’t close, sailing through on talk of jobs, tax revenue, and, well, people wanting to light up legally. Reality doesn’t always live up to promise, but in this case, it has. Yes, the industry is still facing growing pains, particularly when it comes to creating a level playing field for entrepreneurs. But when it comes to this new industry’s impact on jobs, real-estate investment, municipal tax revenue, and more, these are truly high times.

 

David Narkewicz wasn’t just a supporter of cannabis coming to Northampton. He was the first customer.

That was three years ago, when NETA opened on Conz Street and became the state’s very first dispensary for legal, recreational cannabis. Today, with cannabis businesses proliferating in the city and across Massachusetts, the outgoing mayor believes his initial enthusiasm was justified.

“We saw the experience of other states, and a lot of the Massachusetts law, when they were trying to put together the regulatory framework, was based on looking at laws in other states,” Narkewicz said. “First and foremost, I supported legalization just as a public-policy meaure, but I also saw an opportunity for investment in the community.”

Elaborating, he said the city is known as a destination with a vibrant retail sector, arts and culture establishments, and plenty of restaurants and bars. “So my sense, and my hope, was that this would be a new investment in the community and a new source of jobs and revenue, and another reason to come to Northampton. I think we took a pretty forward-looking approach to this.”

Today, Northampton is home to eight retail dispensaries for adult-use cannabis, seven manufacturers, four cultivation facilities, and a testing lab. Those numbers grow seemingly by the month.

Meanwhile, three years of excise taxes on adult-use cannabis have brought in more than $4.3 million. “That helps us continue funding schools, police, fire, DPW, all the services we provide as a city.”

Mark Cutting and Matt Yee certainly saw potential, not only in the state’s legalization of cannabis, but Northampton’s embrace of it. Just last week, they opened the city’s eighth adult-use dispensary, Enlite, just off the Coolidge Bridge rotary — and they have a long-term vision for it based on the idea that this is a still-evolving industry.

“Our getting into cannabis was really just another attempt on our part to find jobs that people can get into at the entry level, or get a better job. It’s imperative that we find people who are unemployed, underemployed, those with limited education, limited work history, and get them into employment and on a career track.”

“We thought that, with our background in business and the Yee family’s background in restaurants and entertainment, there may be potential beyond even the retail space,” Cutting said. “There may be opportunities to have some type of dining or some type of entertainment along with cannabis partaking at some point in time — though that’s not legal here yet.”

Yee noted that the sheer number of cannabis businesses in Massachusetts — almost 190 and counting, not just in retail, but in cultivation, manufacturing, and wholesaling — is making it easier for all players to succeed, because of the cross-pollination. It’s why Enlite has adopted the model of many area dispensaries of partnering with boutique makers of cannabis products.

“Early on, it was difficult because [product] availability was so low, you had to be vertically integrated to supply yourself,” he noted. “But Western Mass. has been really kind to small-scale producers, and we’re really happy to showcase them here at this location.”

Cutting added that “a lot of the multi-state operators don’t necessarily like companies like that to sit on their shelves. But we’re basically an open market for some of these producers to share shelf space and advertise their product here locally.”

With each business open, total sales in Massachusetts increase — crossing the $2 billion mark, in fact, earlier this month, a number even proponents might not have expected so soon after voters approved legalizing recreational cannabis in November 2016, four years after giving a similar go-ahead to medical marijuana.

Jeff Hayden

Jeff Hayden says cannabis has created fertile ground for hundreds of new jobs in Holyoke — and an impressive diversity of them.

And those businesses mean jobs, said Jeffrey Hayden, vice president of Business and Community Services at Holyoke Community College (HCC).

“We’ve experienced high levels of unemployment during the pandemic; both Springfield and Holyoke unemployment have been ahead of the federal and state average. In both communities, we see a strong need to connect people to the workforce,” Hayden told BusinessWest.

That’s one reason HCC became a lead partner in the creation of the Cannabis Career Center in late 2019. If HCC exists to give people the skills they need to get into jobs, he reasoned, then the potential of cannabis couldn’t be ignored — especially in a city rivaled only, perhaps, by Northampton in its full-on embrace of this new industry.

“Our getting into cannabis was really just another attempt on our part to find jobs that people can get into at the entry level, or get a better job,” he explained. “It’s imperative that we find people who are unemployed, underemployed, those with limited education, limited work history, and get them into employment and on a career track.”

But cannabis is changing Holyoke in other ways, too, notably in its canal district, where long-neglected mill buildings are springing to life with cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, and sales.

David Narkewicz

David Narkewicz

“We put in place zoning regulations that were not onerous; we’re essentially allowing retail cannabis anywhere we allowed retail, and it was generally the same for manufacturing.”

“The private investment in Holyoke as a result of this industry coming to Massachusetts has been extremely significant,” Hayden said. “Cannabis companies are buying properties that have been long underutilized — and it’s not like acquiring a building and leaving it as is; they’re investing significant dollars to improve it and create new jobs in the city, literally hundreds of jobs already. And, obviously, the tax revenue generated for the city is significant. This is a growing industry in Massachusetts.”

That’s true — literally and figuratively. Five years after that critical vote and three years after businesses started opening, cannabis has proven to be a hardy economic driver, one that not only survived the pandemic, but thrived throughout it. And no one really knows what the ceiling may be.

 

Ironing Out the Issues

Not everything has been smooth in what is becoming a hyper-competitive market. Enlite is the state’s first Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) applicant to open its doors, and Yee concedes that the Cannabis Control Commission’s stated commitment to MBE and social-equity opportunities — with the goal of helping communities and demographics negatively impacted by the war on drugs to access entrepreneurship opportunities in cannabis — has met with inconsistent results.

“It’s a really big topic in the industry. We’ve had a lot of commissioners change out in the last year or so, and a lot of people in the program saw CCC failing them as far as getting those applicants to the finish line,” Yee explained. “It’s a combination of things: operators with not a lot of resources can be an issue. Obviously you’ve got your multi-state operators with a million dollars allocated to their lawyers and legal teams, so they’re able to have the resources to get them pushed through a little bit faster. Those are big issues.”

Holyoke’s mill district

Holyoke’s mill district has become a promising location for cannabis cultivation for companies like GTI.

But things are changing, he added, with new commissioners “really focusing on those applicants and assisting them, figuring out where the pain points are and getting them to the finish line and open. We’ve been seeing some traction on that.”

The process can be a tricky one (see related story on page 22).

“The biggest issue — because it’s not federally legal — is access to capital,” Cutting said. “It’s a journey getting through the CCC, and if you do make a mistake and don’t dot your I’s and cross your T’s, it gets rejected, and you have to start all over again, and you don’t necessarily go back to the same queue you were in — you may go to the bottom of the pile. And it can be a long, painful process to get back to the top of the pile. And God forbid you make a mistake again.”

It helped, he said, to deal with a city that didn’t limit the number of application approvals. “We sat down with the mayor, and it was the most seamless, easiest process you can ever imagine, versus other cities that either opted out, or there’s a lottery, or they really capped the number of cultivators or retailers they’re allowing.”

In Narkewicz’s eyes, Northampton’s voters approved cannabis — first medical, then recreational — at a much higher percentage than the state average, and the city’s leaders took their cue from that.

“We put in place zoning regulations that were not onerous; we’re essentially allowing retail cannabis anywhere we allowed retail, and it was generally the same for manufacturing,” the mayor said. “And I think we saw a pretty strong response — lots of people wanting to locate here in Northampton.”

He does hear questions from people wondering if the market is too saturated, and has a quick response. “Northampton has 17 liquor stores. I have yet to hear anyone complain that we have too many liquor stores. To me, this is a legal industry, and it’s the free market, which is why I opposed caps on liquor licenses for years, because they hold back economic development in a city like Northampton and only drive up the cost of those licenses and make it harder for entrepreneurs.

“There’s opportunity to get in on the ground floor and also opportunity to grow in these occupations. It’s not like we’ve got 100 people in Holyoke who are cultivators, or 50 people who have strong customer-service experience in retail dispensaries. No one has 10 years of experience in this area. So in Massachusetts, for the job seeker, it’s all about what they bring to the occupation.”

“In an industry like cannabis, which is trying to focus on equity and economic empowerment, particularly for populations that were disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of cannabis and the war on drugs,” he went on, “putting up barriers like that defeats the purpose and works against the goals of this new industry.”

Narkewicz also noted that each new business may be 20 or 25 new local jobs as well.

In Holyoke, cannabis means hundreds of new jobs in a short period of time. And the variety of jobs is appealing to us,” Hayden added, noting that someone with strong customer-service skills could become an effective patient advocate, while someone with an agricultural background could work in cultivation, and someone with a knack for science could work in extraction and infusion.

The appealing thing, he noted, is that companies are looking for workers with broad skills who just need, and want, to be trained in the intricacies of this field and their specific roles.

“There’s opportunity to get in on the ground floor and also opportunity to grow in these occupations,” Hayden said. “It’s not like we’ve got 100 people in Holyoke who are cultivators, or 50 people who have strong customer-service experience in retail dispensaries. No one has 10 years of experience in this area. So in Massachusetts, for the job seeker, it’s all about what they bring to the occupation.”

Kathleen Proper, chief Human Resources officer at Canna Provisions in Holyoke, said as much at a panel discussion that preceded a recent Cannabis Career Fair at HCC, titled “Cultivating an Industry.”

“Our biggest thing is providing outstanding customer service,” she noted. “So if you’ve got experience doing customer service, whether you’ve worked retail, worked in a restaurant, waited tables, tended bar, all of those skills work out really well. Even though cannabis retail is a different animal than other retail … we tend to do really well with people who have waited tables or tended bar.”

 

Word on the Street

Yee isn’t worried about the ninth dispensary that will open in Northampton, or the 10th or 11th. Like Narkewicz, he believes the legal cannabis industry is thriving, with the saturation point well in the distance.

“I always say our biggest competitor is the black market. Many consumers are still shopping on the black market because the pricing is far better,” he said, noting that an eighth-ounce of cannabis may cost $50 in a store and $30 on the street, with no tax.

“A lot of folks who are stuck in their ways, they know the brands they like on that market, they know the cultivators they want to work with … the black market is still very, very strong,” he went on. “As we see more interesting products hit the shelves here at a commercial dispensary and prices begin to drop — and we are seeing a little more of that — we’ll see folks moving over from the black market to the commercial market. So there’s still a massive untapped customer base out there.”

Cutting agreed that, as the legal cannabis industry matures and deepens, the sheer volume of product will lower prices, and that — as well as the aesthetic and educational experience that many cannabis shops tout — will draw more people in.

“Additionally, all the product on our shelves has been tested; you know what’s in the product. On the black market, you don’t have test results and don’t know what metals or pesticides or mold or yeast are in their product. They don’t have to test — they just roll and sell their product from whatever location they’re growing in.

“Here, it’s a safe, friendly environment,” Cutting went on. “You’re not looking over your shoulder buying something off the black market. And I think that market will eventually snuff itself out. Not entirely, but I think, over time, you’ll see it. The question some will ask is, ‘hey, do I want to be safe, or roll with this and take the risk of an untested product?’ I think most people will want to be on the safe side.”

As for public safety, Narkewicz said concerns from cannabis opponents — regarding surging crime and diversion problems — simply haven’t come to pass. And looking back, he’s proud to have been the first customer in the city’s newest growth industry.

“Obviously, in the early going, we had a little traffic crunch and parking crunch, but I don’t know many mayors worried about too many people wanting to visit their city,” he told BusinessWest. “It’s a good problem to have.”

 

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Health Care

Shot in the Arm

Following updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Baker-Polito administration has outlined how families in Massachusetts can access Pfizer COVID-19 pediatric vaccines for children ages 5 to 11.

Children will be able to receive the Pfizer pediatric COVID-19 vaccine from more than 500 locations, including retail pharmacies, primary-care practices, regional collaboratives, local boards of health, community health centers, hospital systems, state-supported vaccination sites, and mobile clinics. Some appointments are available now for booking, with additional locations and appointments expected to come online in the coming days.

“Pediatricians and parents should be very excited about the approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11,” said Dr. John O’Reilly, chief of General Pediatrics at Baystate Children’s Hospital. “Some parents may be reluctant to have their children in this age group vaccinated, but if a day of soreness can get your child safely back to playing with friends and visiting relatives, then the benefits clearly outweigh the discomfort.”

As a pediatrician, O’Reilly said he had been hoping for this approval for months.

“Some parents may be reluctant to have their children in this age group vaccinated, but if a day of soreness can get your child safely back to playing with friends and visiting relatives, then the benefits clearly outweigh the discomfort.”

“I was very glad that the FDA took the time to be sure that the vaccine was safe and effective for children in this age group before it was approved,” he added. “Clinical trials of over 3,000 children who received the vaccine found it produced protective levels of antibodies with only mild reactions to the shot, such as pain at the injection site, fatigue, and headache.”

He understands that some parents might have safety concerns, but noted that much misinformation has been spread about the development of the mRNA vaccines, especially considering how fast the COVID vaccines were rolled out. The truth, he noted, is that scientists have been working on the development of mRNA vaccines for decades. The basic scientific advances in gene sequencing and gene modeling allowed companies to quickly adapt mRNA technology to the COVID-19 virus.

“Vaccine development is very expensive, and companies developing other vaccines would be slower in developing them because of the cost,” he explained. “Operation Warp Speed gave companies billions of dollars in support and guaranteed purchases, allowing companies to use those funds to quickly ramp up clinical trials and manufacturing. The trials themselves followed the highest standards of research, and the FDA has reviewed all of the trial data to be sure that the COVID- 19 vaccines are safe and effective.”

O’Reilly noted that children infected with COVID-19 tend to experience mild symptoms, but for some, it can be more serious. Since the pandemic began, about 1.9 million children ages 5 to 11 have been infected, about 9% of all U.S. cases. More than 8,300 in this age group have been hospitalized, with about one-third requiring ICU care, and 94 have died, according to federal data. Children ages 5 to 11 who are black, Native American, or Hispanic are three times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID than white children.

Also, several thousand children infected with the virus have developed severe cases of inflammation throughout their bodies known as multi-system inflammatory syndrome, while others are reporting long COVID symptoms similar to adults, such as headache, cough, fatigue, and more.

“Parents who vaccinate their children not only protect them, but they also protect everyone their children come in contact with,” O’Reilly said. “In school, it protects vulnerable classmates and adult staff whose medical conditions put them at risk for severe COVID-19. It also protects family members and makes visiting at-risk family members at the holidays safer for everyone. Vaccinating our kids also helps to protect our communities. The higher our community immunization rates, the lower the risk of COVID-19 rapidly spreading through our at-risk community members.”

Parents who prefer to have their child vaccinated by their primary-care provider should call their provider’s office directly. Others may visit the VaxFinder tool at vaxfinder.mass.gov for a full list of hundreds of available locations. Residents will be able to narrow results to search for locations that are offering the Pfizer pediatric COVID-19 vaccine, with some appointments available now for booking. Additional appointments will be available online in the coming days. Many locations will be booking appointments out weeks in advance.

“Parents who vaccinate their children not only protect them, but they also protect everyone their children come in contact with.”

For individuals who are unable to use VaxFinder, or have difficulty accessing the internet, the COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Line (Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) is available by calling 211. The COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Line is available in English and Spanish and has translators available in approximately 100 additional languages.

All state-supported vaccination clinics will offer low-sensory vaccinations for children with disabilities.

Additionally, the administration has partnered with several non-traditional, youth-friendly locations for pediatric vaccination clinics, including the Discovery Museum in Acton, the Museum of Science in Boston, the Springfield Museums, and the EcoTarium in Worcester. Appointments for these clinics are available now on the VaxFinder tool. Visit www.mass.gov/covidvaccinekids for more information.

While infection rates have been trending down from an early-fall spike, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported 1,586 new, confirmed COVID cases in the state on Nov. 4, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to more than 800,000. Health officials said the total number of confirmed cases in the state, as of that date, was 801,567.

The DPH also reported 23 additional COVID deaths in the state, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths since the start of the pandemic to 18,671. As of Nov. 4, there were 509 people hospitalized for a coronavirus-related illness, including 147 in intensive care.

State health officials say getting vaccinated remains the most important thing individuals can do to protect themselves, their families, and their community. Individuals do not need an ID or health insurance to access a vaccine and do not need to show a vaccine card when getting a vaccine.

Massachusetts leads the nation in vaccine administration, including adolescent vaccination, with more than 80% of youth ages 12-17 having received at least one dose. More than 4.7 million individuals in the Bay State are fully vaccinated, with more than 92% of all adults having at least one dose.

“I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for parents to make the right decision to vaccinate their children,” O’Reilly said. “It can be life-saving for your child and further protect those in your household as well as the community from this terrible disease that spares no one. I am looking forward to a holiday season when kids are fully vaccinated and we can all gather with friends and family to celebrate being together without fear of COVID.” u

Cannabis Special Coverage

Growing Concerns

Meg Sanders says the state’s onerous regulatory hurdles have made the cannabis space an unfair playing field

Meg Sanders says the state’s onerous regulatory hurdles have made the cannabis space an unfair playing field, especially for smaller shops and social-equity applicants.

Everyone has seen the dispensaries and other cannabis businesses sprouting up in communities across Massachusetts — and the long lines of customers often stretching out the door. And they might think this business is easy money. But that’s far from the truth, thanks to an onerous tax situation, the illegal nature of the product on the federal level making it tough to enlist financial and other partners, and the slow march from stigma to acceptance of this still-new industry. All of that, however, could be changing, although it will take federal action to loosen some of those shackles.

Meg Sanders is a cannabis-industry veteran, most notably in Colorado, the nation’s first regulated market for legal cannabis. So she’s no stranger to the growing pains the industry is now dealing with in Massachusetts.

But as a local business owner — as CEO of Canna Provisions in Holyoke and Lee — she’s frustrated by them, too.

“We’re limited on what we can do with advertising, and the amount of product we can sell to a customer at a time,” she said, citing just two examples of regulations set forth by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission (CCC).

“The whole idea was to regulate cannabis like we regulate alcohol, and we’re not doing that. Actually, they’re going way above and way over the top, and I don’t think that’s helpful to the industry. I don’t think it’s helpful to individual businesses, and it’s definitely, in my opinion, not in the spirit of the CCC, which is supposed to promote social-equity and economic-empowerment applicants. But the bar for entry is really high, and the bar to stay out of trouble with the CCC is really high.”

“The whole idea was to regulate cannabis like we regulate alcohol, and we’re not doing that. Actually, they’re going way above and way over the top, and I don’t think that’s helpful to the industry.”

In other words, despite the number of cannabis businesses currently operating across Massachusetts — 267 and rising every week — this is a tough field to enter and a tougher one to succeed at, Sanders told BusinessWest.

“I think of people who are bootstrapping, mom-and-pop stores, teams that are working with a limited amount of cash, and it’s not a level playing field,” she went on. “And a lot of things we worry about in this industry are things that really do not matter. The amount of money this industry spends on packaging alone, that just goes in a landfill, is awful, and it’s driven by these rules and regs — it has to be childproof, it’s got to have 57 warning labels on it. I feel ethically horrible about the mounds of packaging in landfills. And the burden it puts on mom-and-pop manufacturers who are trying to make a really cool chocolate bar and the expense that’s going into that packaging … it’s really tricky.”

It doesn’t help, she added, that many state regulations can be challenging to interpret, mainly because the CCC is going through the same growing pains businesses are.

Scott Foster says federal decriminalization of cannabis has gained momentum

Scott Foster says federal decriminalization of cannabis has gained momentum, but the timeline is still uncertain.

“I’ve seen this in other states — the agency tasked with regulating and monitoring the industry has a very steep learning curve,” Sanders said. “One investigator will tell you one thing, and another investigator will tell you another thing. So they’re not always on the same page for specific rules.”

Many of those regulations address diversion of product, she noted. “We’ve spent millions of dollars building this business. The last thing we’re going to do is flush it down the toilet trying to sneak a pound out the back door. It’s just absurd.”

So are onerous background checks to get into the industry, keeping out some of the individuals — from communities that have been inordinately affected by the Drug War — who should be able to enter and prosper, she added. “Regulators and business owners should be partners to build a better business and correct things that need correcting, understanding everyone is doing their best.”

Those challenges are strictly state-level, but others on the federal level are just as burdensome, and boil down to the fact that the U.S. government still classifies cannabis as an illegal controlled substance. That means most banks and credit unions have avoided doing business with cannabis operators, though that’s slowly changing.

“In the early days, there weren’t a lot of professionals willing to take the career risk to enter the industry, so it was hard to find talent to come in and help grow the business. But, again, you’re starting to see that shift as more states legalize and you see the social proofs play out.”

“The federal illegality is a big challenge, and it doesn’t stop with the banking issue,” said Patrick Gottschlicht, chief operating officer of Insa. “That’s been extremely detrimental to us, but that carries across to other companies that we can work with — payroll processors, ERP [enterprise resource planning] companies, any big national or international software companies, accounting firms, security vendors … they can’t work with us because of that federal illegality.”

That has started to shift as more professional services and banks are opening up to this industry, though many still won’t, and many that do are startups themselves, with less at stake, said Peter Gallagher, Insa’s CEO.

“There’s no playbook for this industry,” he added. “There’s been a lot of trial and error to get to where we are. In the early days, there weren’t a lot of professionals willing to take the career risk to enter the industry, so it was hard to find talent to come in and help grow the business. But, again, you’re starting to see that shift as more states legalize and you see the social proofs play out. People’s friends are getting into it, talking positively about it, and they see the success of the industry, and you’re seeing more willingness to work with cannabis.”

Some bills have been introduced in Washington to, if not legalize cannabis, at least decriminalize it.

“Those bills would make it easier for us, and also de-risk the industry around the margins for a lot of partners,” Gallagher said. “The trend is definitely there, but in what time frame will that happen? From our perspective, it’s been happening a lot faster than we ever expected. When we got into this, we thought the legal conversation would take 20 or 30 years to play out.”

 

Taking No Credit

Sanders is hopeful, too. “At the federal level, we have big challenges. We can’t even take credit cards. That’s so silly. We can take a debit card and cash, and that’s it. That alone would be a really big help.”

Scott Foster, a partner at Bulkley Richardson and one of the attorneys in that firm’s cannabis practice group, believes sentiment is growing that Congress will act sooner rather than later on some degree of allowing banks into the cannabis space or remove the threat of federal enforcement against entities that partner with cannabis operators.

“That will help create some stability. And the biggest thing it’ll do is allow people to use credit cards at the facilities; it’s largely cash right now. If Congress changes that law, boom — you can use your Visa card, you can use your Mastercard. And the reason that you can’t now is not because Visa and Mastercard have a particular ethical or moral problem with it — they’ve just got a legal problem.”

Patrick Gottschlicht (left) and Peter Gallagher say cannabis is a much more challenging business than it seems — but it’s a rewarding one.

Patrick Gottschlicht (left) and Peter Gallagher say cannabis is a much more challenging business than it seems — but it’s a rewarding one.

Some federal bills have bipartisan support, he added, “but Congress has a lot of other things going on.” Still, with almost 40 states and territories having legalized medical cannabis and more than 20 giving the OK to adult-use cannabis, “I think the tide is definitely turning on this; it’s just a matter of how far it goes, and how quickly.”

Even without a change in the law, Foster explained, “the banking situation is getting better. We’re seeing some banks and some credit unions more willing to lend into the cannabis space now — much more than a couple years ago. They’re becoming more comfortable with lending for real-estate purposes — not for buying things, necessarily, but for buildout and for creating a space, including cultivation spaces. So that’s a change. A very small change, but the fact that it’s happening at all is a big deal.”

The other federal law cannabis operators want to see changed is Internal Revenue Code Section 280E, which severely limits tax deductions for business that deal in controlled substances prohibited by federal law. In short, businesses can deduct the cost of goods sold, but are not allowed any other deductions or credits on their return, including for wages.

“The taxes are crushing — you can’t deduct wages, rent, or other ordinary deductions. Most of these companies are looking at an effective tax rate of 70% to 90% in that, of their profit at the end of the day, 70% of it goes to pay federal taxes.”

“The taxes are crushing — you can’t deduct wages, rent, or other ordinary deductions,” Foster said. “Most of these companies are looking at an effective tax rate of 70% to 90% in that, of their profit at the end of the day, 70% of it goes to pay federal taxes. And this is after they pay state and local taxes. So the federal government is making a lot of tax money off of cannabis companies across the U.S.

“It’s been challenged multiple times in multiple states,” he went on, “and every tax court and every appellate court has said, ‘Congress can change it, but they were unequivocal in what they said.’ It’s a completely constitutionally valid statute.”

Decriminalizing cannabis federally would neuter the impact of 280E on the industry, which would be massive news for cannabis businesses that are already paying higher-than-average state taxes, while their host communities get a cut of between 3% and 6% as well.

But decriminalization would open many other doors as well, like broadening the market for insuring these businesses.

“There’s a risk that your insurance company could, almost at any point, say, ‘well, what you’re doing is a violation of federal law; therefore, we’re not going to insure you,’” Foster said. “The companies are getting insurance — they’re required to get insurance by the CCC — but they’re not the traditional companies; they’re not the Allstates or the companies you see advertising. They’re smaller, specialty, boutique insurance companies that have figured out it’s worth the risk to them to get into that space because the premiums are appreciably higher than they would be for a comparable business.”

So, again, the lack of federal legislation to decriminalize cannabis is increasing the cost of doing business, he went on. “If that happened, I think the cost of insurance would go down because you’d have more competition overnight in the space.”

Another barrier to continued growth that is slowly coming down is stigma surrounding the products themselves.

“For decades, it was drilled into people’s heads that this was a bad thing,” Gallagher said. “It’s going to take time to change that, and the most powerful tool is social proof and people seeing their friends and relatives using it to either treat various ailments or enhance their lifestyle; they see they’re successful, healthy individuals, and this is just a way to improve their lives. But I think it’s going to take time.”

For example, Gottschlicht added, “we have a bedtime edible to help you sleep, and we’ve seen people who were non-cannabis users start using that and come into the space because of that. It’s incredible how many people have gotten off standard pharmaceuticals and gone to half a gummy every night. The feedback has been, ‘it doesn’t make me groggy; it doesn’t give me the melatonin hangover I’ve gotten in the past. I feel normal in the morning, and it helps me sleep through the night.’”

Hearing those testimonies from friends and family is often how the stigma barrier falls for people who have been nervous about stopping by, he noted. “They think, ‘hey, there’s some good benefit to this.’ Or as an alternative to opioids after surgery — we’ve had a lot of people come in who just don’t want to take opioids for pain after surgery; they want to try cannabis because it’s not as addictive as some of the opioids out there.”

Sanders agreed. “I personally think the biggest move you can make to convert non-cannabis users to cannabis is this one-on-one experience, people telling people, or people coming in and finding relief from something — maybe sleep issues or aches and pains. And when you convert one person, they tell someone, and then they tell someone.”

 

Business Is Blooming

It’s been fulfilling to see the industry grow, Foster said — not to mention a boost to his own professional practice.

“The big uncertainty now is what consolidation in this industry is going to look like, and when is it going to happen. Everyone knows big players are going to come in and buy up companies and create brands that stretch across the nation; it’s already occurring, though not a lot … yet.”

But as more investors become comfortable with industry — there’s that idea of breaking through stigma again — that consolidation will happen, he went on. Drawing on the beer industry, he noted there’s no Anheuser-Busch in cannabis yet — it’s all microbreweries, so to speak. But even when large, national companies spread across the space, there will always be room for the boutique experience, for small companies that continue to research and promote the effects of new and different strains.

Research that is not currently happening to the degree it could because much research, especially clinical research at universities, is dependent on … wait for it … federal funding.

But once that research takes off and the cannabis industry escapes the shackles of federal illegality — a development that industry players generally agree will happen at some point — the products will continue to become more legitimized in the public eye, and the potential customer base will expand.

“People are asking, is the industry tapped out? No, I’m not seeing that,” Foster said. “Every business that opens up has a line out the door, and every facility that opens up can sell everything it makes. So, we have not reached a point of saturation by any means.”

That ever-expanding competition is another challenge, Sanders said, but one that should benefit all players because it further legitimizes the products in more people’s minds. But it also means individual businesses need to work harder to stand out. Canna does that with a strong focus on the individual experience and locally sourced products — including its own brand, Smash — with interesting, local stories behind them.

“There’s more good people than not in this space, and we owe it to consumers who are cannabis-curious to put our best foot forward and make sure they have as much information about our products as possible, so they don’t have any unexpected reactions,” she said. “Our commitment is to great products we can tell a story about, that we understand and respect and can get behind and provide the best experience we can possibly provide, and educate our customers.”

Insa, which has a production facility in Easthampton and four dispensaries across the region, including a flagship store in Springfield, has also expanded nationally, with a production facility in Pennsylvania selling to about 100 dispensaries and a Florida license to build a production site and medical dispensaries. And Gallagher embraces the growing competition in all those regions.

“The way we look at it, this is a much bigger industry than exists today,” he said. “If we all do a good job and operate responsibly and create good quality products, it will encourage more people to enter the industry and experiment and try it, and this will get much, much bigger. A rising tide lifts all boats, and as long as you have good, responsible players in the market, it’s going to be a benefit to everyone.”

Still, he added, “it’s a tough business. One of the common misperceptions is, people think it’s going to be easy. But it’s probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do. You have to be on it every day. And when you’re dealing with any biological product, the number of variables to control are immense. So it’s extremely challenging.

“But it’s been great,” he added. “The relationships we’ve built along the way have been fantastic. I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

Except, of course, for some pesky federal laws.

 

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Community Spotlight

Community Spotlight

By Mark Morris

Bob Boilard says infrastructure improvements, including a broadband plan for the town, have moved forward during the pandemic.

Bob Boilard says infrastructure improvements, including a broadband plan for the town, have moved forward during the pandemic.

 

Robert Boilard credits people in town working together as the reason Wilbraham has come through the pandemic so far with minimal impact on the community.

“We incorporated our protocols early and have been very fortunate that most people have remained safe from COVID,” said Boilard, who chairs the Wilbraham Board of Selectmen.

Officials from the Police and Fire departments, as well as the town’s public-health nurse, provide weekly updates to the selectmen of the number of positive cases, illnesses, and hospitalizations so they can continue to closely monitor the community’s health.

Boilard pointed to a new DPW garage and a storage facility for the Parks and Recreation department as two projects the town was able to complete during the pandemic. As a community that has received funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the board is hoping to use the money on water-infrastructure projects and expanding broadband internet.

“We have a master plan to install broadband throughout Wilbraham,” Boilard said. “This is a project that will be ongoing for the next few years.”

Another big project on the horizon involves a new senior center. On Oct. 18, Wilbraham will hold a special town meeting to discuss building the facility behind Town Hall. Paula Dubord, the town’s director of Elder Affairs, said she and others have led a 10-year effort for a senior center that can better accommodate the community’s growing senior population.

“Our current location is in a lovely building, but the space is only 3,840 square feet,” Dubord said. “With more than 4,000 seniors in town, it’s just too small.”

The drive for a new senior center began in 2012 with a study committee, which concluded the existing senior center did not meet the town’s needs, even at that time. Next, a feasibility committee was formed and brought in an architect to do a deep dive on what made sense for a new facility. After seven years and consideration of nearly 40 different sites in Wilbraham, the feasibility study recommended building a new structure on municipally owned land behind Town Hall. October’s town meeting will give residents a chance to vote on that recommendation.

“Our current location is in a lovely building, but the space is only 3,840 square feet. With more than 4,000 seniors in town, it’s just too small.”

There were some in town who pushed for locating the new senior center in an available former school. Dubord said the senior center has been located in old schools twice before, and it’s an approach that just doesn’t work.

“The experts who took part in the feasibility study told us a new building was a more practical way to meet the current and future needs for Wilbraham residents,” he said.

 

Booming Population

When the study committee began its work in 2012, members looked at the potential growth in the over-60 population in Wilbraham.

“We projected that, by 2025, nearly 40% of our town — with a population of nearly 15,000 — will be considered a senior,” Dubord said. “We are very close to that projection right now.”

As Wilbraham residents age, she added, many of them say they prefer to stay in their own home or move to one of the 55+ communities in town.

In its current location, more than 100 residents visit the senior center every day. Dubord emphasized that the real goal of the center is to keep people socially connected. Last March, when the pandemic forced the center to shut down, she and her staff quickly found new ways to stay connected with local seniors.

“We immediately started grocery shopping for people and picking up essential items like masks and toilet paper — both of which were hard to get in the beginning — as well as their prescription medicines,” she said.

The staff at the center put their full focus on meeting the needs of Wilbraham seniors, she added. “Because everyone was isolated, we did lots of phone check-ins with people to keep them engaged.”

In the spring, when vaccines first became available for people 65 and older, Dubord and her staff helped seniors sign up online to receive their shots when the state made them available at the nearby Eastfield Mall in Springfield.

“The registration process was not easy for seniors to complete, so we became like vaccination headquarters,” she said. “Because we had done a number of them, our staff was able to quickly get people registered for their shot.”

Dubord estimates they helped nearly 400 residents sign up for the initial vaccine offering. Later, the senior center hosted its own vaccine clinic run by staff from the Public Health and Fire departments.

Grace Barone says Wilbraham businesses are looking forward

Grace Barone says Wilbraham businesses are looking forward to getting back to some semblance of normalcy.

“Through all those efforts, we are confident that everyone who wanted to get a shot was able to get one,” she said.

Like many senior centers in the area, Wilbraham also offed a grab-and-go lunch program when it could not open the center for meals. “The real plus to the grab-and-go was it introduced us to people we’ve never seen before at the senior center,” Dubord said.

Happy to open the doors at the senior center almost three months ago, she said having someplace to go gives people a purpose and plays a key role in our health as we age.

“Many of our seniors live alone, so the center is important because it gives them access to vital community services and for the social connections they make,” she noted. Indeed, according to a Harvard Health study, the negative health risks of social isolation are comparable to smoking and obesity, increasing mortality risk by up to 30%.

Wilbraham at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1763
Population: 14,868
Area: 22.4 square miles
County: Hampden
Residential Tax Rate: $22.96
Commercial Tax Rate: $22.96
Median Household Income: $65,014
Median Family Income: $73,825
Type of government: Board of Selectmen, Open Town Meeting
Largest Employers: Baystate Wing Wilbraham Medical Center; Friendly Ice Cream Corp.; Big Y; Home Depot; Wilbraham & Monson Academy
*Latest information available

While a new senior center can address the needs of Wilbraham’s growing elder population, Dubord said the plan is for the new building to also house services for veterans in town.

“There are benefits for the new center beyond seniors,” she explained. “The larger space can be used by Boy and Girl Scouts, as well as women’s groups or other organizations in town.”

 

Moving Forward

Gradual easing of COVID-19 mandates is also good news for Wilbraham businesses. Grace Barone, executive director of East of the River Five Town Chamber of Commerce, noted that, like everyone else, Wilbraham businesses are looking forward to something resembling business as usual once again.

She pointed to a recent annual meeting of the chamber which more than 130 members attended in person while others joined remotely as an example of gradually getting back to attending events while still staying safe.

“The chamber’s golf tournament at the end of September is another way to get back to networking and taking advantage of the outdoors while we can,” she added.

New to her role at the chamber, Barone has been in the job since late June after working with the Keystone Commons retirement community in Ludlow for the last five years.

“I’m hoping to take what we’ve learned from the past 18 months to help our businesses succeed going forward,” she said. “It’s going to take some time, but we can get there together.”

Boilard shares Barone’s optimism about the future.

“It’s awesome to see how well everyone works together,” he said. “From boards to community groups, they are all focused on making Wilbraham a better place to live.”

Home Improvement

Target Acquired

The Baker-Polito administration recently announced it has established an ambitious greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions-reduction goal for the next three-year Mass Save Energy Efficiency Plan. The goals, established as part of comprehensive climate legislation signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker in March, are intended to help the Commonwealth meet its ambitious goal to reduce GHG emissions 50% below 1990 levels by 2030.

The GHG reduction goal for the three-year energy-efficiency plan, established in a letter issued by Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides to Mass Save program administrators, builds upon the framework established in the administration’s 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap and 2030 Interim Clean Energy and Climate Plan. The goal requires the Commonwealth’s utility companies to pursue an ambitious emissions-reduction goal through Mass Save in a cost-effective and equitable manner while creating jobs and opportunities for economic development throughout Massachusetts.

“Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in ambitious clean-energy and energy-efficiency policies with programs like Mass Save, helping residents save money on their energy bills while making substantial progress on our climate goals,” Baker said. “The goals we are setting today will help spark innovative efficiency solutions and lead to significant reductions in harmful greenhouse-gas emissions to combat the effects of climate change.”

“In establishing this emissions-reduction goal, our administration is laying the groundwork for significant investments in energy-efficient infrastructure and job creation across the Commonwealth,” Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said. “These investments will reduce air pollution in our cities and towns, create new economic opportunities, and lower energy costs for our residents and businesses across the state.”

The GHG reduction goal for the 2022-24 Joint Statewide Energy Efficiency Plan for electric utility companies requires the reduction of 504,955 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions, while the emissions reduction for gas-utility companies requires the reduction of 335,588 metric tons of CO2e.

Gov. Charlie Baker

Gov. Charlie Baker

“The goals we are setting today will help spark innovative efficiency solutions and lead to significant reductions in harmful greenhouse-gas emissions to combat the effects of climate change.”

“Massachusetts remains a national leader in energy efficiency, but we continue to pursue innovative approaches to make our buildings more efficient, drive investment to our cities and towns, and help our state meet its ambitious target of net-zero emissions by 2050,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said. “The goals set today will not only help residents and businesses increase efficiency and reduce emissions, but also ensure that equity is a central priority in our efficiency programs as we continue to transition to a clean-energy future.”

The climate legislation signed by Baker requires both economy-wide and sector limits, which will be set first for 2025, then for 2030. The Mass Save program prepares three-year investment plans, one for gas programs and another for electricity and delivered heating fuels. Those plans include goals and reporting requirements for three sectors: residential, residential income-eligible ratepayers, and commercial customers.

The Mass Save energy-efficiency programs are funded by utility customers. All residents and businesses located in investor-owned utility territories in Massachusetts pay into a fund through their utility bill, which supports these programs. The three-year plan directs how these funds will be spent on financial-incentive programs for homes and businesses. The development, implementation, and evaluation of three-year plans is overseen by the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council (EEAC), which is chaired by the Department of Energy Resources (DOER). A resolution created by the EEAC this past March details the EEAC’s priorities for the upcoming three-year plan, as well as providing specific recommendations to support these priorities.

The letter sent by heoharides to the utility companies that administer the Mass Save Program details the goals and priorities for the 2022-24 energy-efficiency plans, which are currently in development and which must be voted on by the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council and submitted to the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) by Oct. 31.

It is anticipated that Mass Save will achieve the GHG emission-reduction goals by increasing the number of buildings retrofitted and weatherized each year, making significant investment in electrification of existing buildings to transition customers away from fossil fuels, reducing support for fossil-fuel heating incentives, phasing out LED lightbulb incentives, increasing equitable program investments in environmental-justice communities and low- to moderate-income households, and increasing workforce-development investments to expand diversity in the workforce. The goals build on the administration’s effort to promote long-term decarbonization in coordination with the EEAC and its priorities, such as promoting passive home adoption and air-source heat pumps.

“Energy-efficiency measures are the most cost-effective way for residents and businesses to lower their energy bills and to lower our greenhouse-gas emissions,” Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Patrick Woodcock said. “DOER looks forward to our continued partnership with the Mass Save program administrators and the EEAC to design a plan that meets this ambitious mandate.”

The final 2022-24 energy-efficiency plans, to be filed with the DPU in October, are required to be designed to achieve the GHG goals established in the secretary’s letter and should focus on programs that accelerate the market transformation needed to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The plan should reflect the GHG-reduction goals and include a performance-incentive mechanism that ensures that electric and gas utilities are incentivized to achieve these goals.

On March 26, Baker signed comprehensive climate-change legislation that significantly increased protections for environmental-justice communities across Massachusetts; authorized the administration to implement a new, voluntary, energy-efficient building code for municipalities; and allowed the Commonwealth to procure an additional 2,400 megawatts of clean, reliable offshore wind energy by 2027. Recognizing the significant impact of climate change on environmental-justice communities overburdened by poor air quality and disproportionately high levels of pollution, the legislation statutorily defined environmental-justice and environmental burdens, including climate change as an environmental burden.

The legislation also expanded Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act review to require an environmental-impact report for all projects that impact air quality within one mile of an environmental-justice neighborhood and required the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a stakeholder process to develop a cumulative impact analysis as a condition of permitting certain projects.

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