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A New Anchor

Drew DiGiorgio discusses Wellfleet’s move

Drew DiGiorgio discusses Wellfleet’s move, backed by, from left, Demetrios Panteleakis, Dinesh Patel, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Vid Mitta, and state Rep. Carlos Gonzalez.

Tower Square has seen its ups and downs over the years, but its new owners have been aggressive about selling potential clients on the renovated space, convenient parking, downtown amenities, and simply being part of an economic renaissance in Springfield. Wellfleet took that pitch to heart, which is why it agreed to become the tower’s anchor tenant.

Vid Mitta, managing partner of Tower Square, called Wellfleet’s relocation to the downtown Springfield office tower “a big thing.”

It’s even bigger when one considers how far the company has come, said Drew DiGiorgio, Wellfleet’s president and CEO.

“When we started, it was five employees,” DiGiorgio said. “My office was not an office — it was a desk and a chair located at the bottom of the stairs at a barbershop in Wilbraham. We would open up envelopes, and I would lick them because didn’t even have the little spongy thing. We answered the phones when they rang; we did everything. To go from that to this is pretty humbling, and I appreciate everyone’s support to get us here.”

“If this was five years ago, the issue might have been safety in the downtown. But the dynamic has changed. The downtown is attractive, there are all kinds of venues and attractions nearby, and security doesn’t appear to be an issue any longer.”

Wellfleet, a Berkshire Hathaway company providing accident and health-insurance products, recently staged a press conference to announce the relocation of its national corporate headquarters — and 150 of its employees — to the 10th, 11th, and 12th floors of Tower Square in August.

Wellfleet — which has built a national niche insuring college students, handling more than 100,000 students at more than 200 colleges and universities — has outgrown its current office space on Roosevelt Avenue in Springfield. The new offices at Tower Square will give employees up to 80,000 square feet of class-A office space and provide ample room for Wellfleet’s new and growing Workplace Benefits division.

“To me, Wellfleet is a home-grown, small, Springfield-based company which has grown to this size today, and we should applaud their success,” said Mitta, who announced that Wellfleet’s name will be placed on the tower as its anchor tenant.

Rethinking the City

Demetrios Panteleakis, principal of Macmillan Group, the real-estate firm that represents Tower Square, said his team was in discussions with Wellfleet for about a year as Wellfleet searched the suburban market for a home.

“We were the alternative. They were kind of weighing it against what the suburbs had to offer,” he said, adding that he was able to pitch a downtown headquarters as much more than a fallback. In fact, the more Wellfleet’s leaders considered Tower Square, the more it made sense.

“If this was five years ago, the issue might have been safety in the downtown,” Panteleakis told BusinessWest. “But the dynamic has changed. The downtown is attractive, there are all kinds of venues and attractions nearby, and security doesn’t appear to be an issue any longer.”

In short, a thriving urban center is simply more attractive than the suburbs to many companies. But that shift in perception didn’t happen overnight.

“I think it’s a culmination of everything the folks at City Hall, the Business Improvement District, and all the economic-development folks have been working on, rowing in the same direction, for the last four or five years,” he said. “The result is not only attracting new tenants, but bringing tenants from Westfield, West Springfield, Northampton, Agawam … these are folks saying, ‘Springfield is the heart of the economic engine in Western Mass., and that’s where we need to be; that’s where our employees need to be.’”

DiGiorgio said Wellfleet employees, when asked what’s appealing about Tower Square, cited the modern, renovated space itself, with its natural light, city views, and covered parking, as well as the food options downtown and the fact that the district has been emerging economically in recent years.

“In New England, it’s not a lot of fun when the snow and rain come, so having a secure garage, and having the ease of a building that kind of provides you everything you need over the course of the day, that’s highly attractive,” Panteleakis added.

Drew DiGiorgio called Wellfleet’s new home in Tower Square “inspirational” space.

Drew DiGiorgio called Wellfleet’s new home in Tower Square “inspirational” space.

Formerly known as Consolidated Health Plans, Wellfleet branded under its current name in January, uniting its insurance carriers and claims-administration organizations under one marketing name. It boasts approximately 175 employees, 150 of whom work in Springfield; others work remotely or from satellite offices in Florence, S.C. and San Rafael, Calif.

“We believe being part of Springfield is important,” DiGiorgio said, noting that the company has long been involved in efforts like the Memorial Spring Cleanup, Link to Libraries, Friends of the Homeless, Rays of Hope, and Open Pantry. “We are active in the community. Our name is not well-known, but we think that will change in the future.”

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno noted that Tower Square’s owners have been aggressive and creative in bringing an eclectic mix of businesses to the facility, from Wellfleet to the YMCA of Greater Springfield to White Lion Brewing Co.

“A lot of people, years ago, said, ‘what can you expect? It’s Springfield.’ More and more people are saying now, ‘why not Springfield?’” the mayor said. “I won’t say the downtown is re-emerging as much as it is reinventing itself. Springfield is getting on the map. And my administration continues to be business-friendly because it brings jobs.”

Towering Presence

At the end of the day, Panteleakis said, Tower Square is becoming an easier sell.

“When you walk people through the space and they consider the economics of it — for a few dollars more, they can have parking at their leisure, then the level of security and the amenities a class-A building has to offer — it sells itself.”

That’s why he enjoys those tours of the building with prospective tenants, and hopes more companies and organizations request them.

“What they need to understand is what Wellfleet understands — the level of the buildouts of the existing spaces in Tower Square rival anything you’d see in Boston or New York City,” he told BusinessWest. “These are class-A, high-tech buildouts, and there’s a difference between being in a class-B or suburban market and being in a state-of-the-art, class-A office space with spectacular views of the Pioneer Valley.”

At the press conference, Panteleakis said welcoming Wellfleet was “a special day” for the city and the office tower.

“It’s quite remarkable to have another insurance company that’s growing at the rate this company is growing, and it’s only fitting it makes its home in the marquee building in the center of the city, bringing its people, its energy, and its vitality to the downtown,” he noted. “It’s just a great day to see it happen to our city. I think it’s going to be one of many great announcements Tower Square has for you over the coming months.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

People on the Move
Amanda Mercier

Amanda Mercier

Amanda Mercier of the Gaudreau Group recently achieved the Registered Employee Benefits Consultant (REBC) designation from the National Assoc. of Health Underwriters (NAHU), which views this designation as the highest form of recognition in the health-insurance industry, demonstrating Mercier’s commitment to educational leadership within the insurance profession. The REBC designation distinguishes Mercier as an elite practitioner in her field. The program analyzes group benefits with respect to the ACA environment, contract provisions, marketing, underwriting, rate making, plan design, cost containment, and alternative funding methods. The largest portion of this program is devoted to group medical expense plans that are a major concern to employers, as well as to employees.

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In recognition of another record-breaking season for the business, the Springfield Thunderbirds announced that three staff members will take on new roles for the 2018-19 season. Thunderbirds President Nathan Costa announced the promotions of Steve Kunsey to senior manager of Business Development and Nicole Taylor to Business Development & Special Events executive. Additionally, Frank Grimaldi will take on a new role as Ticket Operations and Retention executive. Kunsey and Taylor were key members of the Thunderbirds’ sponsorship sales staff during the 2017-18 season. That department reached a new pinnacle with more than $1.2 million in corporate cash for the first time in Springfield AHL history, including 177 corporate accounts — the second-highest total in the AHL. Grimaldi will take on his new role after previously serving as an account executive in Ticket Sales. He will oversee the Thunderbirds ticketing system, with a focus on digital ticketing and data collection.

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Caryl Connor

Caryl Connor

For the third year in a row, Caryl Connor of the Mortgage Department of Greenfield Savings Bank has been named the area’s top mortgage originator by number of loans, according to the journal Banker & Tradesman. The report also ranked Connor the area’s number-two loan originator by total dollar amount of loans, and the number-six loan originator in the state based on number of loans.

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Robinson Donovan, P.C. announced that seven attorneys were listed in The Best Lawyers in America 2019. They include:

• Jeffrey Roberts: corporate law; trusts and estates;

• Jeffrey McCormick: personal-injury litigation (defendants); personal-injury litigation (plaintiffs);

• James Martin: franchise law; real-estate law;

Nancy Frankel Pelletier: personal-injury litigation (defendants);

• Patricia Rapinchuk: employment law (management); and litigation (labor and employment. She was also named Lawyer of the Year in the field of litigation (labor and employment);

• Carla Newton: family law; and

• Richard Gaberman: corporate law; real-estate law; tax law; trusts and estates.

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Isaac Fleisher

Isaac Fleisher

Bacon Wilson announced that Isaac Fleisher joined the firm as an associate on the firm’s business and corporate team. As an accomplished transactional attorney, Fleisher has broad experience in all aspects of business representation, for legal matters ranging from mergers and acquisitions to business formation and financing, real-estate transactions including land use and zoning issues, copyright work, and mediation and arbitration. He also has experience representing clients in the rapidly expanding solar-energy and cannabis industries. Earlier in his career, Fleisher worked as in-house counsel for a prominent musical theater licensing agency in New York City, and as a legal fellow for the New York state attorney general. He serves on the board of the Lander-Grinspoon Academy in Northampton, and is a member of the Hampden County Bar Assoc. pro bono advisory board.

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Thirteen lawyers from Bulkley Richardson were recently selected by their peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America for 2019. These 13 lawyers were recognized in 19 unique areas of practice. They include:

Peter Barry: construction law;

Michael Burke: medical malpractice law (defendants); personal-injury litigation (defendants);

Mark Cress: bankruptcy and creditor-debtor rights/insolvency and reorganization law; corporate law;

• Francis Dibble Jr.: bet-the-company litigation; commercial litigation; criminal defense (white-collar); litigation (antitrust); litigation (labor and employment); litigation (securities);

• Daniel Finnegan: administrative/regulatory law; litigation (construction);

• Robert Gelinas: personal-injury litigation (defendants);

• William Hart: trusts and estates;

Kevin Maynard: commercial litigation; litigation (banking and finance); litigation (construction);

• David Park: corporate law;

• Melinda Phelps: medical-malpractice law (defendants); personal-injury litigation (defendants);

• John Pucci: bet-the-company litigation; criminal defense (general practice); criminal defense (white-collar);

• Elizabeth Sillin: nonprofit/charities law; trusts and estates; and

• Ronald Weiss: corporate law; mergers and acquisitions law; tax law.

In addition, Pucci and Sillin were each named 2019 Springfield, Mass. Lawyer of the Year in their respective practice areas — criminal defense and trusts and estates, respectively — by Best Lawyers, in partnership with U.S. News Media Group. Lawyer of the Year rankings are awarded to only one lawyer per practice area in each region.

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Dr. Yannis Raftopoulos

Dr. Yannis Raftopoulos

Dr. Yannis Raftopoulos, a board-certified bariatric surgeon and weight-management specialist at Holyoke Medical Center, has been selected to give a podium presentation at Obesity Week 2018 in Nashville, Tenn. in November. Obesity Week is an international event focused on the basic science, clinical application, surgical intervention, and prevention of obesity. By combining both the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) and the Obesity Society (TOS) annual meetings, Obesity Week is the largest obesity meeting in the world, bringing together world-renowned experts in obesity to share innovation and breakthroughs in science. Raftopoulos will present his findings on effectively assisting patients in losing 10% of their body weight before bariatric surgery. With a sample size of nearly 1,400 patients, out of which 190 patients were from Holyoke Medical Center, patients who are able to lose more than 10% of their body weight before bariatric surgery had substantially better results after two years post-surgery than those who did not lose weight or lost less than 10% of their body weight. This is the first time that such effective weight loss prior to surgery has been reported and additionally has been linked to better weight loss after surgery long-term.

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Dr. Steven Nguyen

Dr. Steven Nguyen

Facial Cosmetic & Maxillofacial Surgery, P.C. announced that Dr. Steven Nguyen, an Atlanta native, has joined the oral-surgery practice. Nguyen earned his DMD degree at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston. He also completed a general practice residency at Jacobi Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y. Afterward, he was accepted into the six-year MD integrated Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Residency Program at the Mount Sinai Downtown/Jacobi Medical Center in New York City, and received his MD degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Nguyen practices the full scope of oral and maxillofacial surgery procedures, including repair of oral-facial trauma, orthognathic surgery, general anesthesia and IV sedation, wisdom-teeth removal, bone grafting and dental implants, management of oral pathology, treatment of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disease, minimally invasive salivary gland procedures, as well as traditional dentoalveolar surgery. He maintains certifications in BLS, ACLS, PALS, and ATLS.

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David Henry, a Christmas tree grower and owner of the Henry Co. Insurance, has been named chairman of the board of Eastern States Exposition. A trustee of the ESE since 1983, Henry has served as a member of its board of directors since 2005, and has been secretary since 2012. Henry has been an independent insurance agent for 50 years, specializing in life, disability, and long-term care. He has been named to the Senior Agent Hall of Fame and the Million Dollar Round Table. In October 1978, Henry purchased the Scituate, R.I. farm that had been in his family for more than 160 years, the land where he began growing Christmas trees at the age of 12 as an FFA project. Under Henry’s leadership, the property became the largest Christmas tree farm in Rhode Island. With help from his wife, Linda, Henry tends to between 90,000 and 100,000 Christmas trees on the 131-acre farm that bears his name. Simply called Henry’s Christmas Tree Farm, the sprawling land has been in his family since 1851. The Eastern States Exposition has been an important part of Henry’s life for more than 50 years. He attended the Big E as an FFA member and served as the Rhode Island state FFA president.

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Dr. Laki Rousou

Dr. Laki Rousou

The American Lung Assoc. announced that Dr. Laki Rousou, program director of the Lung Cancer Screening Program at Holyoke Medical Center, was named a LUNG FORCE Hero for his commitment to making a difference in the community for individuals living with lung cancer. Rousou is a thoracic surgeon at Holyoke Medical Center. He trained in general surgery at New York University Langone Medical Center and completed a research fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/West Roxbury VA Hospital – Harvard Medical School. He then completed his cardiothoracic surgery residency at Yale New Haven Hospital/Yale Medical School. Rousou is board-certified in general surgery and thoracic surgery with broad expertise in diseases of the chest and abdomen. His particular interests are on lung cancer and minimally invasive/robotic surgery for the treatment of thoracic surgical diseases. As an official LUNG FORCE Hero, he will become a storyteller for the American Lung Assoc. and a voice for awareness, research, and education on lung cancer.

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Webster Bank announced that Tim Patneaude has been promoted to executive vice president. Patneaude serves as chief operating officer for HSA Bank, a division of Webster, and has a broad range of responsibilities, including information technology, banking operations, professional services, project management, and continuous improvement. Since joining HSA Bank in 2015, he has made significant improvements in process, measurements, and focused execution across the organization, resulting in superior performance. Patneaude earned a bachelor’s degree in information systems at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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Whittlesey announced that Tom Davis, CPA, CFE has been named a manager in the firm’s Holyoke office. In this role, he is responsible for expanding and managing assurance and advisory engagements. Davis has more than eight years of experience in providing accounting, tax, and advisory services to manufacturing and distribution, retail, renewable energy, construction, and nonprofit organizations. Over his career, he has managed client relationships, made process improvements, and analyzed data to provide actionable insights for his clients. Davis formerly served as audit manager for a national public accounting firm. He is a graduate of Boston College and has an MBA in accounting from the University of Phoenix. Whittlesey also announced the promotions of Abbie Gamache, Joshua Labonte, Kristie Nowik, and Bryan Santiago to senior associate.

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