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HCC, C3RN Launch Cannabis Education Center

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) and the Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (C3RN) recently announced the creation of the Cannabis Education Center to provide education and training opportunities and other business resources to individuals in the region who want to work in the state’s newly legalized cannabis industry. HCC and C3RN are designated training partners through the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission’s Social Equity Vendor Training program. The program was designed to provide priority access, training, and technical assistance to those negatively impacted by the drug war. The Cannabis Education Center will be managed out of HCC’s Kittredge Center and provide academic advising and workforce training, public education events that highlight entrepreneurship and workforce development, entrepreneurship events for those interested in joining the cannabis industry as a startup company, and social-equity training for applicants qualified through the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission’s Social Equity Training program. More information about these programs will be posted soon on the Cannabis Education Center’s website, cannabiseducationcenter.org. The Cannabis Education Center will also be running four previously announced certificate programs for specific jobs in the cannabis industry: cannabis culinary assistant, cannabis retail/patient advocate, cannabis cultivation assistant, and cannabis extraction technician assistant. The first of those programs, cannabis culinary assistant, will begin on Jan. 11, 2020, at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute. Each certificate program will consist of 96 hours of instruction, half of which will be held on the HCC campus with the other half conducted through C3RN’s internship program with participating dispensaries, cultivators, manufacturers, and ancillary businesses. C3RN and HCC will also be running five courses for the entrepreneurship track in the Social Equity Program starting Saturday, Nov. 23 at HCC’s Picknelly Adult and Family Education Center, 206 Maple St., Holyoke. The first two-session class, set for Nov. 23-24 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., will focus on business-plan creation and development.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County Receives Mentoring Matching Grant

GREENFIELD — Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP), the only statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding quality youth mentoring in Massachusetts, is awarding $869,000 in mentoring matching grants to mentoring and youth-serving organizations across the state. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County is one of only 44 organizations chosen to receive a grant. These funds were approved by the state Legislature in the FY 2020 budget and are the only state funding dedicated to the mentoring field. MMP worked closely with legislative and community partners in advocating for the money, which represents a 110% increase over the last two years. The Mass Mentoring Partnership matching grant is used to make and support one-to-one mentoring matches that help ignite the power and promise of Franklin County youth. The mentoring matching grants are managed by MMP, with oversight from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and are intended to improve students’ attitudes towards school. Research has shown that young people who are in mentoring relationships show improved academic performance, better school attendance, and a greater chance of going on to higher education. Despite this compelling evidence, there remains a shortage of mentors, with research suggesting that one in three young people will grow up without one. This year’s grants are expected to create and support more than 3,200 high-quality mentor and mentee matches in schools and youth-serving programs statewide.

Eversource Partners with United Way on Programs

SPRINGFIELD — As part of its commitment to the health of all Bay State communities and economic development across the state, Eversource presented Massachusetts United Way agencies with contributions totaling more than $930,000 this year that support programs and services for hundreds of thousands of residents around the state. In total, Eversource and thousands of the company’s employees across Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut contributed more than $2.2 million to the United Way in 2019 to support after-school programs, health clinics, workforce-development programs, weatherization for low-income homeowners, and more. Eversource’s contributions to agencies throughout the state include a corporate gift of more than $515,000 as well as $410,000 in personal contributions made by Massachusetts employees during the company’s annual giving campaign for the United Way. Additionally, Eversource employees across Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut have volunteered more than 1,300 hours in partnership with the United Way to serve hundreds of nonprofits throughout New England.

Westfield Bank to Open Bloomfield, Conn. Location

WESTFIELD — James Hagan, president and CEO of Westfield Bank, a wholly owned subsidiary of Western New England Bancorp Inc., announced that the bank will open a new branch office in Bloomfield, Conn. in mid-2020. The bank will open a full-service branch in the Copaco Center shopping plaza on Cottage Grove Road. The office will include lobby and safe-deposit services, an image-technology ATM, and multiple drive-through teller lanes. The bank looks forward to breaking ground as soon as it secures the necessary permits and approvals, with construction being facilitated by AmCap Inc., the property owner and manager, and Borghesi Building and Engineering Co. Inc. of Torrington. Plans are subject to regulatory approval. The Bloomfield location will follow a new Financial Services Center, which is expected to open in West Hartford Center earlier in 2020. In addition to a full-service branch, the West Hartford Financial Services Center will include a suite of offices for residential lending, commercial lending, and business and government deposit services. Representatives of these departments currently occupy temporary space at 977 Farmington Ave. to assist with their community-outreach activities.

Levellers Press Named a Manufacturers of the Year

AMHERST — Levellers Press in Amherst received a Manufacturer of the Year Award at the fourth annual Manufacturing Award Ceremony at the State House on Oct. 22. Collective Copies, a collectively managed and worker-owned printing company, celebrated the 10th anniversary of its publishing wing, Levellers Press, on Sept. 18. Levellers’ beginning was marked by the launch of its first title, Robert H. Romer’s Slavery in the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts, still one of its bestsellers. One hundred titles later, it has expanded its book-printing and distribution capabilities with Off the Common Books to help self-publishing authors get their books out in a more collaborative way than is possible through the big vendors. Levellers offers a wide selection of printing papers and welcomes input from authors throughout the layout and design process. Levellers Press is a member of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers and was nominated by state Rep. Mindy Domb. The award ceremony was sponsored by the Legislature’s Manufacturing Caucus. Along with Levellers Press, 76 manufacturers were recognized for truly ‘making it’ in Massachusetts.

‘Best Law Firms’ Ranks 11 Bulkley Richardson Practice Areas in Top Tier

SPRINGFIELD — Best Lawyers, in partnership with U.S. News and World Report, has included Bulkley Richardson in its 2020 list of “Best Law Firms,” ranking the firm in the top tier for the most practice areas of any Springfield law firm. The 2020 “Best Law Firms” list ranks Bulkley Richardson in the following 11 practice areas: bankruptcy and creditor debtor rights/insolvency and reorganization law, bet-the-company litigation, commercial litigation, corporate law, criminal defense: general practice, criminal defense: white-collar, litigation – labor and employment, medical malpractice law – defendants, personal injury litigation – defendants, tax law, and trusts and estates law. To be eligible for a ranking, a law firm must have at least one lawyer included in Best Lawyers. Bulkley Richardson has 12 of its lawyers included on the 2020 Best Lawyers list, the most from any Springfield law firm. Three of the firm’s partners were also named 2020 Springfield Lawyer of the Year: Michael Burke, David Parke, and John Pucci. The rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations and peer reviews from leading attorneys in their field.

UMassFive College Federal Credit Union Honored with Award

BOSTON — During the recent Empower U conference in Boston, Credit Union Student Choice presented its third annual Honor Roll Award to UMassFive College Federal Credit Union. The award recognizes excellence in higher-education financing and is given to the winning financial institution in conjunction with a $5,000 Chip Filson Scholarship, which may be awarded by the credit union to an outstanding student-member of its choice. The scholarship was given to UMassFive College Federal Credit Union in honor of Chip Filson, a credit-union industry icon and former Student Choice board member, who played an influential role in the founding and ongoing development of Credit Union Student Choice.

Mellon Foundation Awards Five Colleges $800,000 for Online Museum Collections

AMHERST — The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded the Five College Consortium $800,000 to reimagine the way museum collaborations can share their online collections with each other and the world. The current shared collections database at Five Colleges was developed more than 20 years ago, and this commitment to a consortial database has enriched collaboration across the Five Colleges and opened up discovery and access to museum collections for students, faculty, staff, and the public. It remains one of the few collections databases in the country that is shared among several museums, but with advancements in technology and new accessibility needs on the part of the user, this database has revealed its age and limitations. These facts, combined with Five Colleges’ long history of collaboration, was what originally led the Mellon Foundation to request a grant proposal from the consortium. The museums that are a part of the current collections database are the Hampshire College Art Gallery, the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, the Smith College Museum of Art, the University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMass Amherst, and Historic Deerfield, an independent museum that works closely with the campuses. The award from the Mellon Foundation’s Arts and Cultural Heritage program is a 30-month planning grant that will be used to assess the museums’ collections-management needs.

Melanson Heath Joins BDO Alliance USA

NASHUA, N.H. — Melanson Heath has joined the BDO Alliance USA, a nationwide association of independently owned local and regional accounting, consulting, and service firms with similar client service goals. As an independent member of the BDO Alliance USA, Melanson Heath can expand the services offered to clients by drawing on the resources of BDO USA, LLP, one of the nation’s leading professional-services firms, and other Alliance members. The firm serves clients through more than 60 offices and 550 independent Alliance firm locations nationwide. As an independent member firm of BDO International Ltd., BDO serves multi-national clients through a global network of more than 73,000 people working out of 1,500 offices in more than 162 countries. The BDO Alliance USA enhances member-firm capabilities through the availability of supplementary professional services, comprehensive management-consulting services, focused industry knowledge, customized state-of-the-art computer systems, and internal training programs.

Way Finders Breaks Ground on Library Commons Apartments

HOLYOKE — Way Finders held a groundbreaking ceremony for its Library Commons development, which will include 38 affordable apartments, support services, and retail and cultural spaces, on Oct. 24 at 1 p.m. at Holyoke Public Library. The development will feature 23 two-bedroom apartments and 15 three-bedroom apartments. The complex also features on-site laundry facilities, two wheelchair-accessible apartments, and 54 off-street parking spaces, and is a short walk to child-care centers, transportation, and schools. Way Finders has also developed a partnership with the Care Center on Roqué House, a first-of-its-kind facility in the Commonwealth that will provide 10 two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments for families headed by young parents who are full-time students. Library Commons is comprised of two rehabilitated historical buildings and one newly constructed building. Way Finders’ services will be made available on-site. There will also be meeting space, classrooms, and an art studio/gallery available to all Library Commons residents. The architect for the project is Dietz & Co. Architects Inc., and the contractor is NL Construction Inc.

Girls on the Run Completes Successful Autumn Auction

NORTHAMPTON — Girls on the Run of Western Massachusetts reported a successful Autumn Auction on Oct. 19. The event raised enough money to fund five more teams in Western Mass. Mill 180 Park in Easthampton donated the space and all the food for the event, while 70 items were donated by local business, and a cake was donated by Small Oven. Girls on the Run is a youth-development program that uses fun running games and dynamic discussions to teach life skills to girls in grades 3-8. Participants develop and improve competence, feel confidence in who they are, develop strength of character, respond to others and themselves with care, create positive connections with peers and adults, and make a meaningful contribution to community and society. The next event is the GOTR 5K at Smith College on Saturday, Nov. 23 starting at 10:30 a.m. This event is open to the public.

Company Notebook

AIC Gets High Marks in College Salary Report

SPRINGFIELD — PayScale, a Seattle-based software company that performs compensation research, including pay-scale indices and employee engagement, recently released its 2019-20 College Salary Report, ranking American International College (AIC) 39th in the country for health science and nursing programs when considering salary growth. The annual report, based on the salaries of 3.5 million college graduates, provides estimates of early and mid-career pay for 2,500 associate and bachelor’s degree-granting institutions. For health science and nursing programs, PayScale examined 679 institutions offering four-year degrees. At number 39, AIC ranks in the top 6% of the colleges and universities reviewed. “We are very proud of the dedication, motivation, commitment, and diversity of the students in our health sciences programs, including nursing, exercise science, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and public health, who strive to be the very best,” said Karen Rousseau, dean of the School of Health Sciences. “Central to American International College’s mission is to provide access, opportunity, and inter-professional collaboration to scholars in the School of Health Sciences, which will serve them well in their career goals as they advance in their chosen fields.” PayScale pioneers the use of big data and unique matching algorithms to power the world’s most advanced compensation platform and continues to be the compensation market leader based on user reviews.

Square One Receives $25,000 Grant from Tufts Health Plan Foundation

SPRINGFIELD — Square One has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation. The grant is part $1 million the Tufts Health Plan Foundation is donating to area nonprofits that are focused on health equity and the social determinants of health in honor of Tufts Health Plan’s 40th anniversary and its longstanding tradition of giving back to the community. “It is a true honor to be recognized by Tufts Health Plan Foundation in such a meaningful and generous way,” said Joan Kagan, Square One President and CEO. “Each and every day, our families are impacted by health disparities and social determinants of health. With these funds, we will continue to seek out creative and effective ways to support the physical, social, and mental health and well-being of our children and families.” The $25,000 grants — 10 in each of the states where Tufts Health Plan serves members — support a range of nonprofit organizations doing exemplary work to promote community health and wellness. “We recognize that nonprofit organizations are on the front lines of service and play a crucial role in building stronger and healthier communities for all of us,” said Tom Croswell, president and CEO of Tufts Health Plan. “These angel grants are a way of saying ‘thank you’ to Square One and other organizations addressing the economic and social conditions that influence the health of our diverse communities and helping them to keep up the great work they do.” The Tufts Health Plan Foundation has given more than $35 million to community organizations since 2008 and will give nearly $5 million in community grants this year.

KeyBank Recognized as a Leading Disability Employer

CLEVELAND — For the third year, KeyBank was recognized by the National Organization on Disability (NOD) as a Leading Disability Employer. “We are honored to accept this award from the NOD, a leader in inclusion for people with disabilities,” said Kim Manigault, chief Diversity and Inclusion officer. “Inclusion is intentional. This award reflects the work across many lines of business and partnerships that provide supportive experiences for people with disabilities who engage with and work for KeyBank.”

Jewish Family Service Receives $250,000 Grant

SPRINGFIELD — Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts (JFS) has been awarded a competitive two-year $250,000 Citizenship and Assimilation Grant from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This grant will allow JFS to expand its current citizenship program to better serve prospective citizens’ assimilation into American civic life in Hampden County. The fiscal-year 2019 grants, which run through September 2021, promote prospective citizens’ assimilation into American civic life by funding educational programs designed to increase their knowledge of English, U.S. history, and civics. “Our country welcomes legal immigrants from all over the world who come to the United States, positively contribute to our society, and engage in American civic life,” said USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli. “Immigrants who assimilate, embrace our Constitution, understand our history, and abide by our laws add to the vitality and strength of this great nation. Through this grant program, USCIS continues to support efforts to prepare immigrants to become fully vested U.S. citizens.” JFS is one of 41 organizations in 24 states to receive nearly $10 million in funding to support citizenship-preparation services. Now in its 11th year, the USCIS Citizenship and Assimilation Grant program has helped more than 245,000 lawful, permanent residents prepare for citizenship. A ‘permanent resident’ is a person authorized by the US government to live and work in the country on a permanent basis.

Junior Achievement Wins Community Partner Award

SPRINGFIELD — Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts (JAWM) was recognized recently by Massachusetts’ Department of Youth Services (DYS) for its work with local youth. DYS, the juvenile-justice agency for the Commonwealth, gave JAWM the 2019 Commissioner’s Award for Outstanding Community Partner in the Western Region at a ceremony on Oct. 4 in Dorchester. JAWM, which provides workforce-readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial-literacy programs to K-12 youth, was nominated by Sharon Bess, youth employment development specialist at the Center for Human Development (CHD) in Springfield. Bess wrote in her nomination that “Junior Achievement has allowed us to introduce career readiness and financial literacy in a unique way that leaves a lasting impact on our young people and creates a foundation toward positive change to their futures.” CHD is a nonprofit that delivers social and mental-health services to people in Western Mass. and Connecticut. “We’re honored to be recognized with this Community Partner award,” said Jennifer Connolly, president of JAWM. “Starting in 2005, our partnership with CHD helped establish their Exclusive Tees program by introducing local high-school students to the JA Be Entrepreneurial program and the JA Company program. Our partnership also established the Teen Reality Fair, which provides high-school students with information on career opportunities and introduces financial literacy in a hands-on, eye-opening fashion. It’s always a pleasure to work with the youth and the staff at CHD.”

Country Bank Receives Award for Marketing Video

WARE — Country Bank was recognized for its “Pioneers” video at the American Bankers Assoc. Bank Marketing Conference in Austin, Texas. “Pioneers” competed against hundreds of national video submissions, winning first place in its category. The winners were selected by bank marketing professionals who judged the entries based on creativity, production value, and overall messaging. “We were so honored to receive this award; ‘Pioneers’ truly portrays the hardworking communities that we serve in such an impactful way. The imagery captured local landscapes, people, and businesses, which resulted in a genuinely moving video for us,” said Shelley Regin, senior vice president of Marketing at Country Bank. “The closing line, ‘even hard work needs a partner,’ supports the bank’s belief that relationships are life’s most valuable investments.” When the bank decided to create new videos last summer, it turned to its agency partner, Small Army, to develop a storyline that would truly represent both Central and Western Mass., she added. “We could not be more grateful to our agency for creating a true representation of Country Bank’s local communities.”

Employer Confidence Holds Steady in September

BOSTON — Business confidence remained essentially flat in Massachusetts during September despite a darkening outlook among manufacturers. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index rose 0.2 points to 58.9 last month after retreating in August. The Index has lost 3.7 points since September 2018 but remains within optimistic territory. The September reading was weighed down by weakening sentiment among Bay State manufacturers. The Index’s manufacturing component dropped 2.4 points in September and 7.9 points for the year. The results mirrored the national Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index, which fell to its lowest level since 2009 last month. A separate report by IHS Markit showed that the manufacturing sector suffered its worst quarter since 2009, though activity increased during September. The constituent indicators that make up the Index were mixed during September. The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth fell 0.6 points to 63.3, while the U.S. Index rose to 56.5. The Massachusetts reading has decreased 1.2 points and the U.S. reading has fallen 7.1 points during the past 12 months. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, lost 0.5 points to 56.4, leaving it 4.4 points lower than a year ago. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, increased 0.8 points to 61.3 — 3.0 points lower than its reading of September 2018. The Employment Index rose a point for the month but remained down 3.1 points for the year. Employers continue to struggle to find qualified workers in a full-employment state economy. Non-manufacturers (61.9) were more confident than manufacturers (55.4). Large companies (60.2) were more optimistic than medium-sized companies (59.9) or small companies (55.4), reversing a trend established during the summer. Companies in Eastern Mass. (62.6) continued to be more optimistic than those in the west (53.8).

Briefcase

Bradley Begins Construction on New Ground Transportation Center

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — Gov. Ned Lamont, state leaders, Connecticut Airport Authority officials, and project stakeholders held a ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony at the construction site of Bradley International Airport’s new Ground Transportation Center on July 18. The new facility, spanning 1.4 million square feet across 13.4 acres, will be located west of the existing short-term and long-term parking garage, with a direct connection to Terminal A. Its major features will include convenient rental-car services across from Terminal A, additional public parking, and improved access to public transportation, including a dedicated area that will be used to receive high-frequency buses connecting the airport to the CTrail line, as well as regional bus services. The construction phase will be completed over the next three years and will cost approximately $210 million, which is being entirely financed by customer facility-charge revenues. In anticipation of the construction of the new Ground Transportation Center, several enabling projects were initiated in 2018 to prepare the site for construction. These projects focused on the realignment of roadways and the addition of a new intersection. Additional enabling projects will commence in the late summer and will be publicized in the coming weeks.

Massachusetts Unemployment Rate Holds Steady at 3.0% in June

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate in June remained unchanged at 3.0%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 9,800 jobs in June. Over the month, the private sector added 8,400 jobs as gains occurred in education and health services, leisure and hospitality, financial activities, manufacturing, information, and trade, transportation, and utilities. Government added jobs over the month. From June 2018 to June 2019, BLS estimates Massachusetts added 35,500 jobs. The June unemployment rate was seven-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 3.7% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The labor force decreased by 2,100 from 3,840,900 in May, as 1,700 fewer residents were employed and 500 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents age 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — dropped one-tenth of a percentage point at 67.7% over the month. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in education and health services, information, leisure and hospitality, and other services.

Adam Quenneville Seeks Nominations for No Roof Left Behind Program

SOUTH HADLEY — When hard times fall on a local family, caring people in the community want to help. No Roof Left Behind is a nationwide program that gives good neighbors a chance to nominate a deserving homeowner to receive a free new roof. It also provides a local contractor the framework to provide a new roof at no cost. Adam Quenneville Roofing & Siding Inc. has participated in the No Roof Left Behind program since 2014, and will do so again this year. Online nominations will be accepted from local people who know someone in dire need of a new roof in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties from Aug. 2 through Aug. 23, and then the public will vote online for the 2019 winner. To submit a nomination, visit noroofleftbehind.com. Each participant must upload a photo and brief story about someone who needs a new roof. Volunteers will review the nominees and select four finalists. From Aug. 26 through Sept. 13, the public will vote for the winner online. Finalists will be revealed, and the public will vote online for the 2019 winner, who will be revealed on Oct. 11.

MassDevelopment Provides $310,000 for Real-estate Projects Across State

BOSTON — MassDevelopment announced up to $310,000 in funding for 10 projects through its Real Estate Technical Assistance program. Under this program, through a combination of in-house expertise and contracts with consultants, MassDevelopment works with municipal officials, planners, local stakeholders, and others to address site-specific and district-wide economic-development challenges. The technical-assistance funds will support a range of projects, from feasibility studies to master-planning efforts. Locally, the town of Greenfield will use one of the awards to prepare a market assessment and operational analysis of proposed uses in the First National Bank and Trust building. This follows a feasibility study that consultant Taylor Burns completed in June. The other local award will be given to the city of Holyoke to develop architectural and financial analyses to determine the cost of rehabilitation of the former National Guard Armory at 163 Sargeant St. Findings from the analyses will help the city secure additional funding needed to move the project forward.

Company Notebook

Eversource Receives Award for Supporting Employees in the Military

BOSTON — Eversource Energy has been selected as a winner of the 2019 Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the government’s highest honor for a company for its support of employees who participate in the U.S. National Guard and Reserves. Eversource is one of only 15 companies nationwide that were selected among more than 2,400 nominations. The award is the result of the perseverance of Bill Gelinas, a control-room supervisor for Eversource in Berlin, Conn. Gelinas wanted to show his appreciation for the support he received from the company and its employees throughout his 15-year military service, which included four overseas deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Gelinas said he was deeply touched by the warmth and support he has received from his Eversource colleagues, especially during his numerous deployments. Each time he went overseas, he was overwhelmed by thoughtful care packages and almost daily encouraging e-mails from employees and company leaders. It also made him empathetic of other soldiers who didn’t have a support system like he did. The Defense Employer Support Freedom Award is administered by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense program that since 1966 has promoted relations and understanding between military reservists and their civilian employers. The winning companies will be invited to Washington, D.C. to receive the award from the Secretary of Defense at a ceremony held at the Pentagon in August.

Holyoke Mall Celebrates 40th Anniversary

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Mall marked its 40th anniversary on July 5. Since opening in 1979, Holyoke Mall has established itself as the largest shopping destination in Western Mass., currently offering more than 150 dining, entertainment, and retail destinations. Throughout the last 40 years, Pyramid Management Group has continued to adapt, evolve, and thrive in an ever-changing market. In 1995, the shopping center expanded, adding an additional 500,000 square feet, and welcomed big-box tenants such as Best Buy and Target. Traditionally located in free-standing or strip-mall locations, the addition of these anchor tenants began an industry-wide trend. Over the years, Holyoke Mall has welcomed Massachusetts’ first Hobby Lobby, and the Xfinity Store, Toys R Us, and Christmas Tree Shops’ first in-mall locations. The center also continues to attract and expand its dining and entertainment options, most recently adding 110 Grill, Flight Fit N Fun, Round1 Bowling & Amusement, and Sumo Japanese Steakhouse. Stores celebrating 40 years at Holyoke Mall include American Eagle, Foot Locker, Gap, GNC, JCPenney, Kay Jewelers, Motherhood Maternity, and the Greek Place.

Florence Bank a Winner in 2019 Banking Choice Awards

FLORENCE — Florence Bank accepted three of the four potential awards for banking excellence in Western Mass. and took part in a panel discussion at the Bank Best Expo! at MGM Springfield on June 28. As part of the 2019 Banking Choice Awards review by 278,359 independent consumers in a double-blind scientific study, Florence Bank came out on top in Western Mass. in almost every category. At the expo, Monica Curhan, the bank’s senior vice president and Marketing director, accepted two first-place awards, for customer service and overall quality, and a second-place honor for excellence in technology and tools. Curhan also sat on a panel of bankers whose institutions consistently rank at the top in independent consumer surveys to discuss best industry practices. She was joined by Stephen Lewis, president of Thomaston Savings Bank and chairman of the Connecticut Bankers Assoc.; Todd Tallman, president and treasurer of Cornerstone Bank in Massachusetts; and Mark Bodin, president of Savings Bank of Walpole in New Hampshire. The Banking Choice Awards recognize banks that receive the highest ratings from their own customers in four categories: customer service, technology, community contribution, and overall quality.

Different Leaf Magazine Announces Premiere Issue

NORTHAMPTON — July marks the publication of the premiere issue of Different Leaf magazine, a journal of cannabis culture. Targeted to readers 45 and over, Different Leaf’s editorial content covers the rapidly evolving cannabis industry in Massachusetts and makes it accessible for consumers who are new to cannabis and those looking for new ways to integrate it into their lives. Launching with a quarterly publication schedule, regular features in Different Leaf will include “Merch + More,” a roundup of cannabis products from Massachusetts and beyond including smoking accessories, THC and CBD products, and books. The back of the book contains practical, educational information on using cannabis for health and wellness, cooking, nutrition, fitness, sexuality, pets, and more. Features will look in depth at innovators in the industry, medical news, and social and cultural issues surrounding the legalization of cannabis. Different Leaf will depart from the more traditional publishing model of posting text-based content online and will instead launch a companion podcast series with the October issue. The podcast will expand on the topics in the print magazine and delve into issues and stories that don’t mesh with a print publication timetable. A calendar of events that tie into the print publication is also planned.

Bay Path’s Leadership and Organizational Studies Program Nationally Ranked

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University’s bachelor of arts (BA) in leadership and organizational studies (LOS) has been named among the top 20 online programs in the country, as ranked by thebestschools.org. According to the site, bachelor-degree programs in leadership and organizational studies were ranked based on several categories, including academic excellence, strength of faculty scholarship, reputation, range of degree programs, and strength of online-instruction methodology. Bay Path’s program, offered by its American Women’s College, was acknowledged for its accelerated degree program and its distinct Women as Empowered Learners and Leaders program. The BA in leadership and organizational studies at the American Women’s College offers 100% online or a combination of online and on-campus courses, with six different start dates per year. The program is offered in an accelerated version, and has the flexibility to be taken full-time or part-time. It also includes access to mentoring, tutoring, library resources, academic resources, and career services.

Miller Dyer Spears Selected as Architect for WSU’s Parenzo Hall Renovation

WESTFIELD — Miller Dyer Spears (MDS) has been chosen as the architectural firm to design Westfield State University’s (WSU) $40 million, multi-year Parenzo Hall renovation project. Following a request for proposals set forth by the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), the Massachusetts Designer Selection Board (an autonomous, 11-member board) reviewed and selected Boston-based MDS from three finalists among more than 20 applicants. Westfield State received $21.25 million in state funding last year for the renovation of Parenzo Hall, the university’s oldest building, which opened in 1956. Nearly matching the state’s $21.25 million investment, WSU will invest approximately $20 million of university funds into the project. The renovations will create two new centers — the Center for Innovation in Education and Industry Partnerships and the Center for Student Success and Engagement. The Center for Innovation in Education and Industry Partnerships will leverage technology to serve as the nexus for innovative collaboration in Western Mass., partnering with K-12 school districts, community colleges, and industry partners. It will teach students and community partners how to engage productively in online-hybrid environments that increase flexibility for students, facilitate co-enrollment, expand course choices, and provide a bridge to employment. The Center for Student Success and Engagement will address the student-outcomes goals of WSU’s Vision Project (increasing retention and graduation rates, and reducing the achievement gap). The project will also address the continuing decline in the number of working-age adults. The center will increase student preparation for advanced learning and support exploration of career pathways in elementary and high schools to prepare them for on-the-job training. In addition to the centers, several academic departments will be located in the renovated facility, including Education and Political Science.

AIC Celebrates Rex’s Pantry Garden with Ribbon Cutting

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) recently expanded its efforts to help serve the community with the official ribbon cutting for the Rex’s Pantry Garden. Rex’s Pantry was launched in December 2017 in an effort to provide the less fortunate in Springfield with hot meals, canned food, and other living necessities. Since its founding, Rex’s Pantry has served more than 2,000 meals and collected thousands of pounds of canned goods. Rex, a yellowjacket, is the AIC mascot. The Rex’s Pantry Garden, located on the AIC campus in the heart of the city, is the newest addition to the Rex’s Pantry initiative. The first harvest will include tomatoes and pumpkins. The tomatoes will be distributed to neighborhood residents, who often do not have the resources to purchase fresh produce. Pumpkins will be given to local children during the Halloween season. Until one month ago, the Rex’s Pantry Garden was a long-standing vacant lot, but the plot was transformed by the C&W Services grounds crew at the college. Local businesses also donated to the creation of the garden, including Associated Building Wreckers, C&W Services, Capone’s Pool Water, GMH Fence Co., Go Graphix, Ondrick Natural Earth, and Wallace Tree Service. Student-athletes and representatives from the AIC basketball, ice hockey, rugby, and wrestling teams, along with student groups — including IMPACT, a residential community for AIC students in pursuit of leadership experiences in and outside the classroom, and the Student Nurses Assoc. — have supported Rex’s Pantry by serving hot meals throughout the academic year. AIC staff and student volunteers will maintain the garden throughout the growing season.

Briefcase

Construction to Begin at Paramount, Massasoit House Hotel

SPRINGFIELD — Saying he is “bullish” on downtown Springfield, Gov. Charlie Baker was among a group of local and state officials who gathered recently to ceremonially break ground on a $38 million restoration of the Paramount Theater and Massasoit House Hotel. The project will transform the Paramount, which opened 90 years ago as a vaudeville theater, into a performing-arts center, while the adjoining Massasoit building will become an 85-room boutique hotel. The property was purchased in 2011 by the New England Farm Workers Council. The 85-room hotel is expected to be completed by December 2020, with the theater expected to finish a year after that. Main Street Hospitality — whose properties include the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Hotel on North in Pittsfield, and the Porches Inn at MASS MoCA in North Adams — will manage the new Massasoit House Hotel. Main Street CEO Sarah Eustis has been looking to enter the Springfield market for a few years. Project funding involves roughly $20 million from state and federal historic tax credits and a federal opportunity-zone tax credit. The project will also reap $3.8 million in HUD Section 108 loan funds through the city and the federal government, a $2 million state grant, and private funding.

Employer Confidence Stabilizes in June

BOSTON — Employer confidence stabilized in Massachusetts during June despite a continued swirl of conflicting economic and political signals around the globe. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index rose 0.5 points to 57.6 last month, rebounding from a May drop that left it at its lowest level since October 2016. The Index has declined 3.7 points since June 2018 but remains within optimistic territory. And though confidence levels are virtually unchanged since January, the AIM Index reflects constantly changing headlines about international trade, economic growth, and the direction of interest rates. The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth rose 0.3 points to 61.2, while the U.S. Index rose 3 points to 58.0. The Massachusetts reading has declined 1.6 points during the past 12 months, and the U.S. reading has dropped 2.0 points during the same period. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, rose 0.2 points to 56.2. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, gained 0.8 points to 59.0, 4.5 points lower than a year ago. The Employment Index declined 0.4 points for the month and 2.2 percent for 12 months. Analysts say employers continue to struggle to find qualified workers in a state economy with a 2.9% jobless rate.

SBA Awards $100,000 for Veteran-owned Small-business Growth Training Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced a partnership with the Veteran Entrepreneurial Training and Resource Network (VETRN) to establish a pilot training program for military veterans who are small-business owners and their immediate family members. The program will equip these entrepreneurs with the resources and networks necessary to grow their small businesses. Starting in September, this 26-week program based in Portsmouth, N.H. will feature 13 weeks of Saturday-morning classroom sessions with 12 to 20 participants, as well as 13 weeks of peer-to-peer mentoring sessions. The course curriculum will include strategic planning, financial management, cash-flow forecasting, marketing the small business, sales methods, human resources, developing a growth plan, access to capital, legal issues, and government contracting. Applicants must be a current business owner with at least one year of operation and one employee (not including the owner), and annual revenues of $75,000 or more.  Also required is the passion, dedication, and commitment to grow the small business. Veteran business owners interested in finding out more information or applying for the September 2019 program can visit vetrn.org to complete an application, or e-mail [email protected]

Massachusetts Credit Unions Unite to Support ‘A Bed for Every Child’

MARLBOROUGH — Ronald McLean, president and CEO of the Cooperative Credit Union Assoc. Inc. (CCUA), on behalf of Massachusetts credit unions, along with members of the Massachusetts Credit Unions Social Responsibility Committee, presented a check for $202,725 to the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless at the third Annual Stephen D. Jones Credit Union Charity Golf Tournament in support of the “A Bed for Every Child” campaign. Massachusetts credit unions have supported the coalition for more than two decades, surpassing more than $2 million in donations and providing blankets, toys, and books to help families in need. In 2018, Massachusetts credit unions raised $202,725 through efforts including the Stephen D. Jones Charity Golf Tournament and a variety of credit-union-driven initiatives. The need for “A Bed for Every Child” reaches all cities and towns in Massachusetts. “A Bed for Every Child” began when a concerned inner-city public-school teacher reached out to the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless. At the time, the teacher was seeing an increase in the number of students who did not have a bed of their own. Robyn Frost, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, said demand continues to outpace the coalition’s capacity.

Company Notebook

Wright-Pierce Opens Westfield Office

WESTFIELD — Wright-Pierce, an environmental/civil infrastructure engineering firm, announced the opening of an office in Westfield. “Opening the Westfield office is the next step in our strategic plan to better serve our expanding client base in Central and Western Massachusetts,” said Wright-Pierce President and CEO John Braccio. “We look forward to being an active community partner with municipalities throughout the region, helping to engineer environmentally sustainable and economically sound solutions to New England’s aging water, wastewater, and civil infrastructure challenges.” Thomas Hogan, regional group leader for Central and Western Massachusetts, will serve as office manager. Prior to joining Wright-Pierce, he served more than 20 years as an engineering consultant to Massachusetts municipal, institutional, industrial, commercial, and energy-sector clients. Wright-Pierce is an award-winning, multi-discipline engineering firm that has been providing water, wastewater, and civil infrastructure services since 1947. Employee-owned, Wright-Pierce’s more than 200 engineers and support professionals are strategically located in offices throughout New England and Florida.

Hampshire College Resolves to Admit Full Class for 2020

AMHERST — In a letter to the Hampshire College community, interim President Ken Rosenthal said the school is committed to admitting a full class for 2020, only a few months after the troubled institution decided to admit only a partial class this fall. “People have asked, why is the board confident they can enroll a new class next fall 2020 when they voted four months ago not to accept a full class for fall 2019 and spring 2020? What changed?” he wrote. “The answer is the remarkable, historic outpouring of support this spring from Hampshire alums, friends, and people who believe in our college. We are deeply grateful for the unprecedented energy and giving to secure an independent Hampshire.” Rosenthal said the college and its board are working on a number of fronts simultaneously. These include reinforcing its governance and leadership; defining and improving its value proposition; restructuring its business model so it is sustainable, and continuing to operate efficiently and reduce costs where possible; renewing its academic program; leading a successful fundraising campaign, including building the endowment; investing in improving the student experience on campus and upgrading campus facilities to benefit recruitment and retention; and continuing to participate fully in the Five College Consortium for the benefit of students and employees. The school is also making strides toward hiring a new president.

Open Square Creates Headquarters for VertitechIT

HOLYOKE — Architect John Aubin announced plans for the build-out of a company headquarters at his flagship mixed-use development, Open Square. Aubin is creating a new, custom-designed and custom-built workspace in his historic zero-net-energy development in Holyoke. The modern office environment will provide approximately 6,000 square feet of work and meeting space for 25 employees. Current tenant and national healthcare IT consultancy VertitechIT is expanding its presence at Open Square. The new space will also house employees of two sister companies — Akiro Consulting, a firm that facilitates medical practice transactions and acquisitions, and BaytechIT, an IT services provider to physician practices, clinics, and nonprofit healthcare companies. BaytechIT is a joint venture between VertitechIT and Baystate Health. The new space will allow collaboration between the three companies while giving each their own autonomy, said Greg Pellerin, VertitechIT’s chief operating officer.

Basketball Celebration Nets $7,500 for Five Nonprofits

SPRINGFIELD — A basketball event that celebrated the restoration of the court at the Greenleaf Community Center — just in time for summer pick-up games — netted $7,500 in donations for five area nonprofits. Roughly 50 area residents attended the festivities, which included a demonstration by a comedic basketball troupe called the Court Jesters. Several dozen adults and children took part in the Helping Hoops Challenge. As part of this game that benefited nonprofits, participants took shots at the basket from three designated points on the court — one that was kid-friendly for younger children.  The plan was to give each nonprofit $100 or $25 per basket, depending on the distance from the hoop. But Florence Bank and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame were feeling generous during the event. John Heaps Jr., president and CEO of Florence Bank, ended the celebration by announcing that each nonprofit would receive $1,000 from the bank. Additionally, Jason Fiddler, vice president of Sales, Marketing and Partnerships for the Hall of Fame, offered $500 per nonprofit from his organization. The following nonprofits received the donations: Camp STAR Angelina, Dunbar Community Center, Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services, Urban League of Springfield, and Open Pantry Community Services. The event was a celebration of the rejuvenation of the basketball court at Greenleaf Community Center, which is only a few miles from Florence Bank’s new Allen Street branch. The city of Springfield and Florence Bank each contributed $15,000 to repave and paint the court at the center for young people in the neighborhood. Two new hoops and backboards were also installed.

STCC Rolls Out Child Development Associate Plus Program

SPRINGFIELD — This fall, Springfield Technical Community College will launch a new certificate program to help early-childhood educators or school paraprofessionals take their careers to the next level. The Child Development Associate Plus (CDA Plus) certificate of completion is designed for educators who want to get their CDA credential and earn college credit at the same time. An individual with a CDA credential, which is nationally recognized, has demonstrated competency in meeting the needs of children and working with parents and other adults to nurture children’s physical, social, emotional, and intellectual growth, said Nancy Ward, STCC’s Early Education and Care Pathways Grant and Activity director. The Career Pathways Grant, funded through the state Department of Early Education and Care, enables STCC to provide a range of support for CDA Plus students. STCC also has credit-earning opportunities available for educators who have earned their CDA credential or have acquired other skills in the field or from existing certifications. Students with a CDA credential can receive 17 credits toward an associate degree, Greco said. STCC has named experienced educator Aimee Dalenta as chair of the Early Childhood Education Department. Among her responsibilities, she will oversee the new CDA program.

Delaney’s Market Store Opens in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — Owner Peter Rosskothen held a grand-opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 19 at Delaney’s Market at 1365 Main St. in Springfield. Delaney’s Market is a retail store that features chef-inspired meals that are fresh and ready to serve with little effort. It also features a selection of beer and wine. The Delaney’s Market target audience is a busy individual or family who wants to eat a quality lunch or dinner at their home or office without the hassle of long prep times and/or high costs. Delaney’s Market Springfield will also feature delivery to its immediate area, as well as curbside pick-up. “We are so excited to be part of downtown Springfield,” said Roberta Hurwitz, general manager, who oversees operations and an eight-member team at the Springfield store. “The renaissance of the city is happening; we look forward to being a great citizen and neighbor.” This is the second Delaney’s Market store; its flagship store is located at the Longmeadow Shops in Longmeadow and has been open since 2016. Additional stores will open later this year, one in Wilbraham and one in Westfield.

Greenfield Cooperative Bank Reports FY 2019 Results

GREENFIELD — Michael Tucker, president and CEO of Greenfield Cooperative Bank (GCB) and its parent company, Greenfield Bancorp, MHC, shared the operating results of the bank’s latest fiscal year as announced at the 114th annual meeting of the bank on June 18. Tucker reported that FY 2019, which ended on March 31, was very successful, and the assets of the bank grew by $26.3 million (up 4.3%) over the prior year. Also in FY 2019, GCB originated more than $117 million in loans of all types, including $30.16 million in residential mortgages, $46.02 million in commercial real-estate/C&I lending, $28.31 million in municipal lending, $11.88 million in home-equity loans and lines, and $1.05 million in Mass Save zero-interest energy loans and Mass Solar loans. GCB had an increase of $11.4 million in deposits (up 2.14%) over the past year. Interest paid to depositors of GCB increased by $531,000 (23%) over last year. Total equity grew to $73.45 million. GCB’s tier 1 capital to average assets is 12%, and total capital to risk-weighted assets is 21.40%. The bank is considered well-capitalized by all regulatory definitions. The pre-tax operating income for Greenfield Cooperative Bank was up to $5.723 million for the year ended March 31, and the net income after taxes was $4.491 million. The bank also paid its fair share of federal and Massachusetts income taxes ($1.23 million) and local property taxes (more than $133,000) in the cities and towns where it has offices. As a result of these earnings and the fact that Greenfield Cooperative Bank targets its charitable and civic giving at 5% of the prior year’s pre-tax operating income, GCB and its employees were able to contribute $224,054 to 218 charities, community groups, school events, youth teams, and cultural events throughout both Hampshire and Franklin counties during the past fiscal year. This was a 13.8% increase over the prior year. Greenfield Cooperative Bank management noted it has received regulatory approvals for opening its new South Hadley location, and the bank expects to open the office by the end of 2019.

Briefcase

Massachusetts Unemployment Falls Below 3% in April

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate for April was down one-tenth of a percentage point at 2.9%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 4,100 jobs in April. Over the month, the private sector added 4,000 jobs as gains occurred in construction; professional, scientific, and business services; education and health services; financial activities; information; and other services. Trade, transportation, and utilities; manufacturing; and leisure and hospitality lost jobs over the month. From April 2018 to April 2019, BLS estimates Massachusetts added 37,100 jobs. The April unemployment rate was 0.7% lower than the national rate of 3.6% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Preliminary estimates indicate that, in April, the Massachusetts unemployment rate fell below 3% for the first time since December of 2000,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta. “Year to date, the Commonwealth’s economy has added 25,400 jobs, showing that, even with a low, 2.9% unemployment rate, Massachusetts employers continue to add jobs to help fuel their growth needs.” The labor force decreased by 3,200 from 3,843,500 in March, as 1,600 fewer residents were employed and 1,600 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped six-tenths of a percentage point. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased one-tenth of a percentage point to 67.8%. Compared to April 2018, the labor-force participation rate is up 0.4%. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in professional, scientific, and business services; information; construction; and education and health services.

Manning Family Gift Will Advance Innovative Research at UMass

AMHERST — UMass Amherst alumnus Paul Manning and his wife, Diane Manning, have committed $1 million through their family foundation to establish the Manning Innovation Program, which provides three years of support in advancing a robust and sustainable pipeline of applied and translational research projects from UMass Amherst. It will allow the university’s College of Natural Sciences (CNS) to support bold, promising researchers, providing resources for them to innovate in new directions and to develop real-world applications for their discoveries. The initiative will provide assistance to researchers and business students across campus through the critical early stages on the path to commercialization, such as ideation, proof of concept, and business development. Faculty will receive seed funding and engage in business training and mentorship from a number of campus units, including the Institute for Applied Life Sciences, the College of Natural Sciences, the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Isenberg School of Management. The first grant to be awarded from the Manning Innovation Program will support research on a topic that hits close to home for the Manning family, Stargardt disease. Both of the Mannings’ sons, Bradford and Bryan, have the disease, which causes loss of central vision. Currently, there is no treatment to delay or cure the disease. The two Manning brothers now run a clothing line called Two Blind Brothers, and they donate all of its proceeds directly to blindness research. Abigail Jensen, associate professor of Biology, will use a $40,000 grant to support her research on Stargardt disease and possible therapies using zebrafish. Her research seeks to identify how the disease works on a molecular level. Development of zebrafish with therapeutic mutations subverting Stargardt disease at the genetic level provides the first opportunity to discover the molecular mechanism of cone-photoreceptor degeneration and potential pathways for translation of research to therapeutic applications. In keeping with the university’s core values, the Manning Innovation Program will stimulate, recognize, and reward innovation. It will foster a culture of entrepreneurship in the college and enhance the spirit of collaboration among Isenberg School of Management advisors, science and technology researchers, and industry experts. Further, the Manning Foundation’s gift provides vital investment to support UMass as a partner of choice in advancing and applying knowledge and innovation for the betterment of society. The next wave in the application process for the Manning Innovation Program will result in a new round of applications being submitted by July 15. The review committee will notify recipients at the end of August, and the next round of projects could begin in September. Paul Manning, an entrepreneur with 30 years of experience in the healthcare industry, most recently founded PBM Capital Group in 2010. PBM Capital is a healthcare-focused private investment group that looks for opportunities to use its entrepreneurial and operational experience to make high-growth pharmaceutical, molecular-diagnostic, gene-therapy, life-science, health and wellness, and consumer product investments. He was the anchor investor in Maroon Venture Partners, the first venture-capital fund at UMass Amherst. Created in 2017, the fund is a $6 million, for-profit investment vehicle created to support alumni, faculty, and student businesses in their early stages.

Communities Receive $647,000 for Middle-school Exploration Programs

BOSTON — American Student Assistance (ASA), a national nonprofit, announced it has awarded grants totaling $647,000 to seven Massachusetts school districts, including two in Western Mass., to fund career and interest exploration programs for middle-school students. The school communities, which will receive their funding over the course of three years, will begin implementing the programs in the 2019-20 school year. In Western Mass., Monson Public Schools will launch the Careers in the Middle program, providing students in grades 6 to 8 with classroom lessons, field trips, and events that will expose them to career-awareness opportunities. “Monson is thrilled to be chosen by ASA to partner to provide additional resources that focus on our middle grades,” said Robert Bardwell, director of School Counseling and School-to-Career coordinator. “This grant will give us the opportunity to do more for our middle-level students and collect data that tells us which activities are best to facilitate and encourage career development early on.” Meanwhile, Springfield STEM Academy will enhance and expand the Tech/Engineering Exploration program to expose students to new fields such as bioengineering, solar and wind engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. “Exposing students to biological, solar, wind, electrical, and mechanical engineering at a young age is a potential game changer for their rest of their lives,” Superintendent Daniel Warwick said. “It allows them to think about the wide array of STEM careers in real ways and opens the door to unlimited possibilities in this burgeoning field. We are extremely grateful that this ASA grant will help us provide this opportunity for our students.”

Employer Confidence in Massachusetts Falls in May

BOSTON — Employer confidence weakened in Massachusetts during May amid renewed trade tensions and concerns among companies about increased operating costs from paid family leave and other government mandates. The outlook among business leaders has moved in a narrow, overall optimistic range for much of 2019. However, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index lost 3.2 points last month to 57.1, its lowest level since October 2016. The Index has declined 9.5 points since May 2018. All the constituent indicators that make up the BCI weakened during May, with the largest drop coming in employer views of conditions six months from now. The erosion of confidence during the past 12 months has been driven largely by caution about the national economy and concern among manufacturing companies. “The Business Confidence Index continues to reflect the Goldilocks economy in which we find ourselves — U.S. GDP growth is expected to remain at a modest level of 2% to 3%, and there is not much inflation or deflation. There are both encouraging signs and red flags,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. Several employers participating in the survey said regulatory costs have become a significant concern. “The cost to operate has increased dramatically — higher wages, benefit costs, supply costs, and cost of compliance with all the new regulations coming out of the State House,” one employer wrote. Constituent indicators showed a broad-based retrenchment during May. The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth fell 2.3 points to 60.9, while the U.S. Index shed 3.3 points to 55.0. The Massachusetts reading has declined 9.1 points during the past 12 months, and the U.S. reading has dropped 14.3 points during the same period. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, tumbled 4.5 points to 56.0. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, lost 1.8 points to 58.2, 8.4 points lower than a year ago. The Employment Index declined 1.2 points for the month and 5.1 percent for 12 months. Analysts say employers continue to struggle to find qualified workers in a state economy with a 2.9% jobless rate. AIM President and CEO John Regan, also a BEA member, said the national economic uncertainty comes at a time when Massachusetts employers are struggling with a series of expensive new employment-law mandates such as the state’s $1 billion paid family and medical leave program. “AIM has joined Raise Up Massachusetts and other groups in asking the Baker administration to delay the scheduled July 1 start of paid leave by three months to provide employers time to consider how much of the cost they will share with workers and whether they wish to opt out of the state system,” Regan said. “The delay is necessary to ensure a smooth rollout of this new entitlement.”

Opioid-overdose Death Rate Falls 4% in Massachusetts

BOSTON — The opioid-related overdose death rate in Massachusetts continues to decline, falling an estimated 4% between 2016 and 2018, according to updated figures rin the latest quarterly opioid-related overdose deaths report by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. For the first three months of 2019, preliminary data shows 497 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths. The decline in opioid-related overdose deaths is occurring despite the persistent presence of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl. In 2018, fentanyl was present in the toxicology of 89% of those who died of an opioid-related overdose and had a toxicology screen. The presence of some stimulants, such as cocaine and amphetamines, has also been increasing in opioid-related overdose deaths since 2017, while the presence of heroin or likely heroin in opioid-related overdose deaths has been declining since 2014. “While we remain encouraged that opioid-related overdose deaths have declined over the last two years, the epidemic continues to present very real challenges across Massachusetts that are made worse by the presence of fentanyl, cocaine, and amphetamines,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Legislature to provide the $266 million we proposed in our budget to support prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery services in addition to $5 million for a new Regional Fentanyl Interdiction Task Force.” In 2018, the total number of confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths was 2,033. That’s 17 fewer deaths than the 2,050 confirmed and estimated in 2017. By comparison, there were 2,100 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016. “The inroads we are making are also the result of our relentless focus on using data to drive our decision making around programs and policies,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “We continue to focus our efforts on multiple strategies that are proven effective.”

Massachusetts Health Officials Report Second Case of Measles

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) confirmed that a case of measles was diagnosed in a child in Greater Boston on May 24. During the infectious period, the child was present in a number of locations in Quincy and Weymouth that could have resulted in exposure to other people. This second case of measles this year in Massachusetts has occurred in the context of a large national outbreak of measles and a very large international outbreak. “Lack of vaccination, combined with domestic and international travel, has resulted in the spread of measles nationally and internationally,” said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel. “Getting vaccinated is the best way for people to protect themselves from this disease.” DPH urges all those who do not know their measles immunization status to get vaccinated with at least one dose of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Measles vaccine given within 72 hours of exposure may prevent measles disease, and vaccination beyond this window will provide protection from subsequent exposures. DPH, local health departments, and healthcare providers are working to contact individuals at high risk for exposure. Early symptoms of measles occur 10 days to two weeks after exposure and may resemble a cold (with fever, cough, runny nose, and red eyes), and a rash occurs on the skin two to four days after the initial symptoms develop. The rash usually appears first on the head and then moves downward. The rash typically lasts a few days and then disappears in the same order. People with measles may be contagious up to four days before the rash appears and for four days after the day the rash appears. People who have had measles, or who have been vaccinated against measles per U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations, are considered immune.

U.S. Department of Commerce Invests in Growth of Ludlow’s Manufacturing Sector

LUDLOW — U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced that the department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is investing $3.1 million in the town of Ludlow to help support of the growth of local manufacturing by improving Riverside Drive. The project, to be matched with $3.1 million in local funds, is located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act-designated Opportunity Zone and is expected to create more than 950 jobs and generate more than $90.6 million in private investment. “Improving Riverside Drive will support the needs of larger commercial and industrial users, which require reliable water and sanitary sewer systems, as well as electric and communication services, to be competitive in the regional and global economy,” Ross said. “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Opportunity Zone designation will further incentives businesses to invest in the area and develop the local economy.” U.S. Rep. Richard Neal noted that the investment will bring the Riverside Drive project at Ludlow Mills one step closer to completion. “I have visited the site many times and know how important this federal investment is to the town of Ludlow. The transformation of the former mill on the Chicopee River has been impressive, and I am pleased to have been an enthusiastic supporter of this business and housing venture from the start.” The Riverside Drive improvement project will include construction of approximately 4,500 feet of public roadway, including water and sewer lines and underground utilities, to provide safe and adequate access to new manufacturing space within Ludlow’s industrial area. This project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC). EDA funds the PVPC to bring together the public and private sectors to create an economic -development road map to strengthen the regional economy, support private capital investment, and create jobs.

Briefcase

Employer Confidence Strengthens in April

BOSTON — The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index rose 2.4 points to 60.3 last month. Confidence remains well within optimistic territory, though still 3.9 points below its strong reading of April 2018. The April 2019 increase reflected growing employer optimism about economic prospects for the next six months and about the future of their own companies. All of the constituent indicators that make up the Index rose during April with one notable exception. The Employment Index fell 1.5 points to 54.4, suggesting that employer sentiment continues to be tempered by a persistent shortage of qualified workers. “The Business Confidence Index continues to show a conflict between short-term economic optimism and long-term concern about the prospect of finding enough appropriately skilled workers to run Massachusetts businesses,” said Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Design. “The immediate news for employers is positive as economic growth in Massachusetts surged to an annual rate of 4.6% during the first quarter of 2019, and U.S. growth came in at 3.2%.” The constituent indicators showed a broad-based strengthening of confidence during April. The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the Commonwealth rose 1.5 points to 63.2, while the U.S. Index gained 2.8 points to 58.3. The Massachusetts reading has declined 0.9 points during the past 12 months, and the U.S. reading has dropped 5.6 points during the same period. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, surged 3.1 points to 60.5. The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, rose 1.7 points to 60.0, still 5.1 points lower than a year ago. The decline in the Employment Index left that measure 5.4 points lower than in April 2018. One good sign for job seekers is that the Sales Index, a key predictor of future business activity, rose 3.9 points during the month.

Leadership Pioneer Valley Partners with Tech Foundry on Program for Students

SPRINGFIELD — Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) and Tech Foundry partnered together for a leadership-development curriculum for the students participating in the 14-week IT-training program. At no cost to the students, Tech Foundry prepares a cross-section of the population to step into a sustainable career in the information-technology sector. The program provides a comprehensive computer-science curriculum that gives students the fundamental knowledge needed to work with a variety of programming languages, computer hardware, networking solutions, and more. Partnering with Leadership Pioneer Valley, Tech Foundry was able to offer leadership development and skills to the students. “I can definitely say that, as a result of working with LPV, our students’ skill sets and confidence increased by leaps and bounds. Lora was thoughtful and responsive from our first planning meetings designing the curriculum to establishing the schedule, to securing trainers and delivering the workshops to meet our unique program needs,” said Dara Nussbaum-Vazquez, executive director of Tech Foundry. “Interactive and engaging LPV sessions with Tech Foundry ranged from students creating an elevator pitch on video to team exercises building towers out of spaghetti and marshmallows, to a creativity and problem-solving session rooted in improv-comedy techniques. We would highly recommend LPV to other nonprofits and companies, and look forward to a longstanding partnership.” LPV is also currently seeking applications for its LEAP Class of 2020. Emerging leaders, mid-career professionals with leadership potential, and those looking to better the Pioneer Valley are encouraged to apply. The deadline for applications is Monday, July 1. Applications and further information can be found at www.leadershippv.org.

Scholarships Available for STEM Studies at HCC

HOLYOKE — Students enrolled full-time in chemistry, engineering, mathematics, physics, or other STEM fields at Holyoke Community College (HCC) may qualify for a National Science Foundation (NSF) scholarship of up to $10,000 a year toward tuition and fees. Recipients of the scholarship become members of HCC’s STEM Scholars program and participate in field trips and benefit from other exclusive STEM-related events and activities each semester. The NSF STEM scholarship continues each semester students maintain good academic standing. Incoming and current HCC students are encouraged to apply. The application deadline for the 2019-20 academic year is Monday, July 15. Eligibility guidelines for the National Science Foundation STEM scholarship can be viewed at www.hcc.edu/scholarships, where there is also a link to the online application under ‘National Science Foundation Scholarships in STEM.’ Applicants must be enrolled full time in a STEM program, demonstrate academic ability or potential, and demonstrate financial need, according to the guidelines. STEM disciplines include biological sciences, physical sciences, math, computer and information services, geosciences, and engineering.

Company Notebook

Girls Inc. of Holyoke Is Now Girls Inc. of the Valley

HOLYOKE — Poised to boost its reach three-fold over the next five years, Girls Inc. of Holyoke has chosen a new name — Girls Inc. of the Valley — to embody its bigger, wider impact across Western Mass. The agency will keep its headquarters in Holyoke, said Executive Director Suzanne Parker at a press conference this morning at WGBY’s headquarters in downtown Springfield, and stay as committed as ever to the city of its origin. But with Girls Inc. members now hailing from Springfield, Chicopee, South Hadley, and other surrounding communities, a name change was certainly needed. Girls from area communities will continue to benefit from Girls Inc. of the Valley programs held at the Holyoke center headquarters on everything from literacy to leadership, said Parker, but the agency is also expanding into surrounding communities and has partnered to work inside 10 schools, including Springfield’s Chestnut Academy Middle School and Chicopee’s Bellamy Middle School and Dupont Middle School.

CommunicateHealth Celebrates 10th Anniversary

NORTHAMPTON — CommunicateHealth announced its 10th anniversary as a national consulting firm specializing in health information design. CommunicateHealth started as a consulting practice focusing on translating health information into plain language. Co-founders Xanthi Scrimgeour and Stacy Robison started the business in their Northampton attic. The couple quickly outgrew that space, eventually establishing an office on nearby Market Street. Over the past 10 years, the company has been successfully evolving into a full-service communications shop. The mission-based company works for some of the biggest names in healthcare and public health, including health-insurance companies, health systems, patient-advocacy groups, and government. They also take on projects for local hospitals and community organizations. CommunicateHealth is headquartered in Northampton with a second office in the Washington, D.C. area. It employs more than 65 employees across both offices. In 2018, the company recorded more than $12 million in sales.

Hazen Paper Co. Wins AIMCAL Product of the Year

HOLYOKE — Turning a simple box into an unusual ‘beauty and the beast’ packaging statement, Hazen Paper Co. was honored for the second year in a row with Product of the Year honors at the annual meeting of the Assoc. of International Metallizers, Coaters, and Laminators (AIMCAL), held recently in Palm Beach, Calif. The winning entry was a folding carton titled “The Spirit of Innovation” for prestige luxury box maker Autajon Packaging USA, which featured a three-dimensional, jewel-toned snake and a female model whose face transformed from flawless to gorgeously reptilian when the box is tilted. The folding carton was made with precisely registered custom color-motion holography that reflects and refracts light to bring the snake’s sinuous curves to life and allows the woman’s face and eye to blaze with unexpected snake-like gleam. The box is embossed with a snakeskin pattern and finished with a soft-touch coating. Inside, a sea-green coating contrasts with the rich black exterior. Hazen also received a “Product Excellence” award for Benefit Cosmetics’ Hoola Quickie Contour Stick packaging, created with silver Ultracure acrylic-coated metallized polyester laminated to paperboard, offset-printed in transparent and opaque colors, and embossed. Judges rewarded the package for its extensive use of embossing, halftone reproduction, tight registration, and vivid green interior.

Complete Payroll Solutions Reports Record Growth

SPRINGFIELD — Complete Payroll Solutions announced it saw more than 100% year-over-year revenue growth compared to a year ago, setting a record pace of new customer acquisitions. The momentum reflects the company’s investment in its people and processes to better serve clients. This momentum is evidenced by several highlights from 2018, including four location openings in Wakefield, Mass., White Plains, N.Y., West Warwick, R.I., and Portsmouth, N.H.; 35 new employees across all offices and an expanded sales force with 10 additional salespeople, providing enhanced resources in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Connecticut; a new HR consulting division that delivers local, personalized HR solutions to clients; partnerships with industry leaders like BankRI, Brookline Bank, and First Ipswich Bank, along with the company’s continued relationship with Webster Bank; and the addition of iSolved, an HCM technology, to complement its existing platform, Kronos. Together, the solutions help clients with their workforce-management processes, including payroll, time and attendance, benefits, and HR to recruit, onboard, and manage employees. Founded in 2003 as a startup venture by owners with a long tradition in the industry, Complete Payroll Solutions now has 14 locations throughout the Northeast with 150 employees, and services over 6,000 clients across all 50 states.

Financial Times Ranks Isenberg’s Online MBA First among U.S. Programs

AMHERST — The online MBA offered by the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst has been ranked first in the U.S. and third in the world by the Financial Times. With one of the largest and most established accredited online MBA programs in the country, the Isenberg School of Management has provided online education opportunities for nearly 16 years. More than 1,100 students are currently enrolled in the program. The Isenberg School stood out in the Financial Times’ 2019 rankings in a number of areas. The online MBA program ranked first for increase in salary after earning an MBA, with a 39% increase; first in the U.S. for total salary; and first for percentage of female faculty, with 45%. Furthermore, the program ranked fifth in online interaction, which measures how well alumni rate interactions between students, teamwork, and availability of faculty. Isenberg’s online MBA program offers an expansive course of study, from business analytics, finance, and healthcare administration to marketing and sports management. Isenberg students come from all 50 states and around the globe, and include physicians, attorneys, entrepreneurs, C-suite executives, and scientists.

Bay Path University Receives Grant for Student Internship Experiences

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University has been awarded $5,000 in grant funding support from the Charles H. Hall Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., trustee, for its project, “Impacting the Community: Fostering Social Justice Through Student Internships.” The foundation’s support will benefit Bay Path undergraduate students who are performing internships at nonprofits in Hampden County, including Square One, the Jewish Community Center, and Girls Inc., all of whom service at-risk children and youth. Bay Path requires its traditional undergraduate students to complete a three- or six-credit internship, research project, or field-work experience, depending on their major, to ensure they have the opportunities to develop the skills and competencies that will help them launch their careers. This funding, which will cover four internships, will help relieve the financial worry that unpaid internships can bring for students. Many Bay Path students hold part-time jobs to make ends meet, and adding an unpaid internship to the mix can be stressful.

BFMC Receives Grants for Community Film Fund

PITTSFIELD — The Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative (BFMC) received two grant awards for its newly established Community Film Fund, which is a matching fund to help local nonprofit organizations create videos for their branding, marketing, fundraising, and social media. The grants were received from the Berkshire Bank Foundation and the Feigenbaum Foundation, each in the amount of $2,500. In today’s world, video messaging is becoming increasingly important. Wordstream, an online advertising company, states that the average user spends 88% more time on a website with video. Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text, and an initial e-mail with a video receives an click-through rate increase of 96%. BFMC is in the process of raising $50,000 for this new initiative, which it expects to launch later this spring. BFMC is partnering with the Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires to provide information to local organizations about this opportunity.

Springfield College Students Volunteer in Trinidad and Tobago

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield College Physical Therapy Professor Kim Nowakowski led a group of graduate students in the health sciences at Springfield College on a global health service trip during spring break. For the third consecutive year, Nowakowski’s group, together with healthcare professionals from Trinidad and Tobago, provided a National Fall Prevention Program in Trinidad and Tobago. The National Fall Prevention program in Trinidad and Tobago was developed based on a needs assessment conducted with physiotherapists from Total Rehabilitation Centre Limited and the Physiotherapy Assoc. of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT). PATT is the sole professional body that represents all physiotherapists in Trinidad and Tobago. Total Rehabilitation Centre Limited was established in 2007 to provide quality healthcare in a friendly, compassionate environment that is geared towards facilitating healing and return to the function of living. Carla Rauseo, a 2005 alumna of the Springfield College physical therapy program who is a physical therapist and co-owner of Total Rehabilitation and a member of PATT, initiated the collaborative effort with Springfield College’s physical therapy program. Since the initiation of the program, the Stay Steady Foundation, a non-governmental organization, has been created to promote sustainability of the Stay Steady Fall Prevention Program, and the involvement of Springfield College has been instrumental to provide the screenings, Rauseo said.

Company Notebook

West of the River Chamber Foundation Funds Equipment at Agawam High School

AGAWAM — The West of the River Chamber of Commerce and its 501(c)(3) foundation presented Agawam High School with a check for $3,600 on Feb. 27 for the purchase of a Haas Simulator for its new manufacturing program. The West of the River Chamber Foundation (WRCF) has a mission to impact the local economy and area businesses by engaging in philanthropic work in the communities of Agawam and West Springfield. It recognizes that approximately 500 machinists’ jobs are vacant in the Commonwealth on any given day. This affects local business and industry because they cannot hire skilled machinists, and, therefore, machine shops cannot operate at maximum capacity. Lower productivity means lower incoming revenue. In an effort to alleviate this problem, the WRCF enacted a plan. It formed a focus group with the Agawam school system and the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative. The focus group’s efforts have resulted in programs, like the new Agawam High School program, implemented in its STEM program to introduce students to the vocation of a machinist. With the purchase of the new machines, the students will be able to learn trades that will provide them with lifelong skills and careers. Ace Precision, a manufacturing company in Agawam, has purchased two new simulators and donated a CNC machine towards this new program as well. Agawam High School has received more than $100,000 in community donations towards this new opportunity for its students.

Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts Earns 5-Star Award

SPRINGFIELD — Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts (JAWM), now celebrating its centennial anniversary, has earned a 5-Star Award from Junior Achievement USA for the third consecutive year. Junior Achievement organizations are judged on five categories: Student Growth/Year-over-Year % Change in Contact Hours; Surplus; Cash on Hand; Debt Ratio, and Current Ratio, defined as current assets divided by current liabilities. All chapters must meet the criteria for Surplus and at least one of the two student ratios, with the level of the star determined by how many of the other three standards are met. JAWM’s volunteer-delivered, K-12 programs foster work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial-literacy skills, and use experiential learning to inspire students to reach their potential. It provides turnkey solutions for businesses to engage students; rigorous and proven curriculum to educators for Massachusetts frameworks in English-language arts, mathematics, and social studies; and business-startup experience for teens. In addition, Junior Achievement provides educational programming for K-12 students that supports the newly signed law by Gov. Charlie Baker aimed at giving Massachusetts students the tools they need to navigate their financial futures, including milestones like buying a home and planning for retirement. The law allows state education officials to establish standards around financial literacy, which schools could incorporate into their existing curricula in subjects like math, business, and social sciences.

 

Allied Flooring and Paint Donates $5,000 to MHA

SPRINGFIELD — Allied Flooring and Paint made a $5,000 donation to support the work of MHA, which provides residential and support services to people impacted by mental illness, developmental disabilities, substance abuse, and homelessness. “Allied has supplied and installed carpet, floors, and paint for MHA residences throughout the area for many years,” said Allied President Mario Tedeschi. “These are family homes for the individuals MHA serves, and I’m proud to help ensure they are comfortable, clean, and bright.” Kimberley Lee, vice president, Resource Development & Branding for MHA, noted that the donation will support MHA’s new outpatient clinic for emotional wellness, known as BestLife. “I’ve had opportunity to see first-hand the compassion and caring that MHA has for the clients they serve,” Tedeschi said. “I’m proud of my long-time affiliation with MHA and consider myself a champion of their work and a cheerleader as well.”