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UMass to Expand Online Educational Opportunities

BOSTON — The University of Massachusetts and Chapman University System announced their intent to form an exclusive strategic partnership between UMass Online and Brandman University to expand educational opportunities for adult learners in Massachusetts and across the nation. This partnership, expected to be finalized later this year, will be launched as millions of adults in Massachusetts and across the U.S. need flexible, high-quality, and affordable online-education alternatives now and as they recover from the economic dislocation caused by COVID-19, which has disproportionately impacted communities of color. Based in Irvine, Calif., Brandman was established in 1958 by Chapman University, a 159-year-old private institution in Orange, Calif. Originally founded to deliver high-quality education to active-service military, Brandman has evolved into a widely recognized leader in online education, with a strong record of serving veterans and a diverse range of adult learners. The partnership will augment UMass Online, which now supports more than 25,000 students, strengthening its technology platform and student-support services tailored to adult learners. UMass President Marty Meehan recently cited dramatic declines in the number of high-school graduates and employers’ need for a highly skilled workforce in announcing plans to scale up online programming at UMass. He also cited the “troubling lack of economic mobility” among African-Americans and Hispanics. The economic disruption caused by COVID-19 has accelerated these challenges, and the need for new online education programs that remove the obstacles adult learners often face is now even more urgent. A key target group for the partnership will be adult learners in underserved communities. According to a Strada Network survey of 4,000 adults, most Americans (62%) are concerned about unemployment, but African-Americans are moreso (68%), and their Latinx and Asian counterparts are even more worried (72%). The same study indicated that 53% of adult learners prefer online education opportunities.

HMC Submits Proposal to Expand Psychiatric Bed Capacity

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Medical Center (HMC) has submitted a letter of intent and project proposal to the Massachusetts Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality to expand psychiatric bed capacity. The letter, sent on June 19, notified the Determination of Need Program that HMC will be completing an application for an additional 64 psychiatric beds. If approved, this will increase the hospital’s total capacity to 84 psychiatric beds, which will serve adult and geriatric populations. The 68,000-square-foot Holyoke Medical Center Behavioral Health Pavilion proposal includes 48 adult psychiatric beds, 36 geriatric beds, and 4,000 square feet of shell space for future expansion or uses to be determined later. Population statistics and competitive analysis suggest that there is a need within a 14-mile radius of Holyoke Medical Center for 52 adult psychiatric beds and 36 geriatric psychiatric beds. The proposal also includes a parking analysis and parking-garage study, which could provide an additional 60 to 180 parking spaces. Holyoke Medical Center is partnered with Signet Health Corp., assisting the hospital in the delivery of behavioral-health services by providing management and consulting services. The Leo Brown Group, a full-service healthcare real-estate development and solutions company, will design and build the facility. It is estimated that, once approved by state and local officials, the new facility will take 18 months to complete and become operational.

Monson Savings Bank to Open New Branch in East Longmeadow

EAST LONGMEADOW — Monson Savings Bank announced the expansion of its branch network into East Longmeadow. This new office, located at 61 North Main St., is expected to open in late summer. The full-service branch will offer an extensive array of consumer and commercial products, traditional banking products, wealth-management products, and several robust digital solutions that have grown more important in today’s environment. It has been the bank’s goal to further expand the markets it serves.

Royal, P.C. Moves to Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — The law firm of Royal, P.C. has moved to Springfield. Founded by attorney Amy Royal in 2008, Royal, P.C. is now located in the Indian Orchard section of Springfield, at 819 Worcester St., Suite 2. “Springfield is where I grew up, so it felt natural to relocate my law firm here,” Royal said. “Indian Orchard, with its unique history, has always felt like a special place within the city to me, and its geography otherwise places us in a more centralized location with respect to our Central and Eastern Massachusetts and Northern Connecticut clients.” The telephone and fax numbers of (413) 586-2288 and (413) 586-2281 remain the same. For more information about the firm, visit www.theroyallawfirm.com.

Bay Path Launches Risk Management Degree

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University is expanding its focus in the rapidly growing area of cybersecurity — and helping to bring more women into it — with the introduction of an undergraduate major in risk management. In addition, the university will offer scholarships to women looking to obtain degrees in cybersecurity. Made possible by Strada Education Network, these scholarships will help offset the cost of fall 2020 enrollment in cybersecurity programs. The term ‘risk management’ applies to the forecasting and evaluation of risks alongside the identification of procedures to avoid or minimize their impact. This new program concentration will include coursework in data privacy, project management, crisis management, and incident recovery. With nearly 80% of the organizations surveyed for the 2019 Marsh Microsoft Global Cyber Risk Perception Survey ranking cyber risks as a top-five concern, but only 11% feeling adequately prepared to assess and address those threats, the need for risk managers in the cybersecurity sphere is more important than ever. Within those responding organizations, the majority of board members and senior executives responsible for their organization’s cyber risk management reported that they had less than a day in the last year to spend focused on cyber risk issues.

ValleyBike Share Launches 2020 Season

PIONEER VALLEY — ValleyBike Share — the electric-assist bike-share program of the Pioneer Valley that includes Amherst, Easthampton, Holyoke, Northampton, South Hadley, Springfield, and the UMass Amherst campus — has launched the 2020 season in select locations. Remaining stations will be opened over the following weeks. ValleyBike boasts more than 40,000 active members, who have ridden more than 280,000 miles on 126,940 trips. Due to the situation with Covid-19, ValleyBike is urging members to sanitize the handles, seat, and PIN pad before and after using the bikes. Every time the maintenance team touches a bike, it will be fully sanitized, but the public can do their part to keep themselves and others safe. Visit www.valleybike.org for more information and to find out how to become a member.

Art Therapy/Counseling Program Accredited at Springfield College

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield College Art Therapy/Counseling master’s-degree program has been granted initial accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), effective immediately. Awarded after a peer review by the Accreditation Council for Art Therapy Education and the CAAHEP board of directors, this accreditation determined the Springfield College Art Therapy/Counseling program was in substantial compliance with nationally established accreditation standards. Students enrolled in the program will have the option to either pursue a master of science or master of education degree. Graduates are master’s-level clinicians who can jump right into the workforce or pursue additional licensure opportunities, which will allow them to earn a license in the mental-health field after graduation and to obtain board certification as an art therapist.

Applied Mortgage Giving Makes $45,000 Regional Donation

NORTHAMPTON — Applied Mortgage Giving announced a new campaign, the Vitality Grant, which will be donated to six local community organizations: Downtown Amherst Foundation (Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce and Amherst Business Improvement District), Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, Greater Easthampton Chamber of Commerce, Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Franklin County, and United Way of Hampshire County. These organizations will each receive a portion of the gift to use at their discretion to support their work in the community. The Vitality Grant — sponsored by Applied Mortgage Giving, the charitable arm of Applied Mortgage, a d/b/a of HarborOne Mortgage, LLC — is designed to positively influence and provide opportunities for the success of small businesses and nonprofits in Hampshire and Franklin counties. Applied Mortgage Giving will be partnering with the local chambers and United Ways, hoping to enhance these organizations’ opportunities to meet the specific needs of their communities. For more information or questions regarding the Vitality Grant, e-mail LaBonte at [email protected].

Westfield State Accepting Applications for Addiction Counselor Education Program

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University’s College of Graduate and Continuing Education is accepting applications for the 2020-21 addiction counselor education (ACE) program. Classes will be held evenings and weekends starting in September 2020 and ending in May 2021. The goal of this non-credit certificate program, offered at the university since 1991, is to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and techniques necessary for the successful treatment of individuals and families afflicted by alcoholism and/or other drug addictions. This program has been highly instrumental in the professional development of individuals in Western Mass. who are either working or interested in the growing healthcare field of addiction services. To help with this mission, Westfield State also offers the ACE program at a satellite location, in Pittsfield, to help train potential counselors in the Berkshires area to fill critical positions in treatment facilities that are understaffed and unable to fill open positions. Applications for both programs are available online at www.westfield.ma.edu/ace. For more information, or to receive an application by mail, contact Brandon Fredette at [email protected] or (413) 572-8033.

Pittsfield Cooperative Bank Supports Resilience Fund

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Agricultural Ventures (BAV) announced it has been awarded a $5,000 grant from Pittsfield Cooperative Bank to support its Resilience Fund for Farmers. This new fund was established in response to the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting impact on local farmers, who are hurting right now as stores, restaurants, and other income-generating avenues like farmers’ markets and CSA are closed or operating in different, logistically challenging ways due to the virus. Despite these challenges, many farmers are reaching out to contribute healthy food to the neediest among us and sell as much as they can directly to consumers. The goal of the BAV Resilience Fund for Farmers is to support those who are experiencing business challenges as a result of COVID-19. Zero-interest, forgivable loans and grants will be provided to help farmers adapt to new realities, overcome significant income challenges, and ensure that farms remain viable and sustainable so they continue to meet demand for healthy, local foods. In addition to working with individual farmers, BAV also hopes to support strategies that avoid costly duplication of effort among farmers, such as developing coordinated delivery services. The first grant from the fund helped Roots Rising to pivot and establish the Berkshire County-wide Virtual Farmers Market, which in its first eight weeks served 1,400 households, gave $18,000 to neighbors in need, and generated $50,000 in sales to support the local food system. The grant from Pittsfield Cooperative Bank represents the first corporate support to the fund, which was established with a grant from a local family foundation. J. Jay Anderson, president and CEO of Pittsfield Cooperative Bank, added that the bank “is proud to support the work of the Berkshire Agricultural Ventures and the Resilience Fund for Farmers during this extraordinary time. At a time when local food systems and healthy food is important to our communities more than ever before, we thank them for their work.”

MCLA Receives Two Awards from Council for Advancement and Support of Education

NORTH ADAMS — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) announced it has received two awards from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), a global nonprofit association dedicated to educational advancement. The college received an Educational Fundraising Award for Overall Performance in the category of Public Liberal Arts Institutions and a Circle of Excellence Award for its 2018-19 President’s Report. This is the first year MCLA has been recognized by this program. The annual Educational Fundraising Awards recognize exemplary development programs based on a blind review of data submitted to the CASE Voluntary Support of Education survey. Winners are selected based on factors and variables that include, but are not limited to, patterns of growth, overall breadth of fundraising, amount raised per student, and alumni participation. The Circle of Excellence Awards recognize institutions whose staff members advanced their institutions through innovative, inspiring, and creative ideas. The awards acknowledge superior accomplishments that have lasting impact, demonstrate the highest level of professionalism, and deliver exceptional results. CASE judges commended the 2018-19 President’s Report, which was developed by MCLA’s Department of Marketing and Communications staff, on its theme and narrative flow, effective use of vintage and modern photographs and design elements, concise but not spare use of color, and the overall feeling of community it expressed, among other praise.

Agenda

‘Interrupting Racism’ Training

June 25, 29: Learning to be an active bystander and interrupting racism before it escalates is critical to creating cultural change in the workplace, schools, and communities. Human in Common is poised and ready to help. This innovative business teaches individuals to effectively interrupt bias and discrimination and create policies and practices that amplify racial equity. The Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce has invited Human in Common to offer its timely training, “Interrupting Racism: Policies, Practices, and Everyday Acts of Solidarity for Businesses and Nonprofits.” This two-part Zoom training will occur on Thursday, June 25 from 1 to 4 p.m., and Monday, June 29 from 1 to 4 p.m. This training begins with a timeline of the history of racism in the U.S. to bring awareness to the conditions that have led to systemic racism. Participants will develop a diversity mission statement, practice six ‘ethical upstander’ methods for interrupting racism in the workplace, explore policies and practices to amplify racial equity, and engage in small breakout groups to practice anti-racism skills using real-life scenarios. The event webpage is bit.ly/2MMrNmr, or visit www.facebook.com/events/193655011884223.

Small-business Resource Series

June 25, July 2: Holyoke Community College (HCC) and Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) will continue its series of online workshops for area employers who want to explore programs, services, and grant-funded workforce-training opportunities to boost their small businesses. The 45-minute remote sessions will meet from 9 to 9:45 a.m. and focus on a different government funding source. On June 25, Oreste Varela, branch manager for the U.S. Small Business Administration office in Springfield, will talk about SBA programs and services available to prospective and current entrepreneurs who need assistance starting or expanding their businesses. On July 2, Melissa Scibelli, director of Workforce Development Programs for MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board, will discuss the Registered Apprenticeship program, an innovative, work-based learning model for new hires and incumbent employees that provides funds to assist businesses in closing critical workforce-gap shortages through on-the-job learning and related technical industry training. The Small Business Resource Series is being offered by HCC and STCC through their Training and Workforce Options (TWO) partnership. Advance registration is required for all sessions. To register, visit hcc.edu/business-series. Log-in information for each remote session will be supplied after registration is complete.

Healthcare Heroes Nominations

Through July 1: Since the phrase COVID-19 came into our lexicon, those working in the broad healthcare field have emerged as the true heroes during a pandemic that has changed every facet of life as we know it. And over the past several months, the world has paid tribute to these heroes, and in all kinds of ways — from applauding in unison from apartment-complex windows to bringing hot meals to hospital and nursing-home workers; from donating much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) to people putting hearts on their front lawns and mailboxes to thank first responders, healthcare workers, postal workers, and others. BusinessWest and its sister publication, the Healthcare News, will pay tribute in their own way, by dedicating their annual Healthcare Heroes program in 2020 to those who are have emerged as true heroes during this crisis. Healthcare Heroes was launched by the two publications in 2017 to recognize those working in this all-important sector of the region’s economy, many of whom are overlooked when it comes to traditional recognition programs. Over the years, the program has recognized providers, administrators, emerging leaders, innovators, and collaborators. For 2020, the program will shift its focus somewhat to the COVID-19 pandemic and all those who are working in the healthcare field or helping to assist it at this trying time. All manner of heroes have emerged this year, and we invite you to nominate one — or several — for what has become a very prestigious honor in Western Mass.: the Healthcare Heroes award. To assist those thinking of nominating someone for this honor, we are simplifying the process. All we desire is a 400- to 500-word essay and/or two-minute video entry explaining why the group or individual stands out as an inspiration, and a truly bright star in a galaxy of healthcare heroes. These nominations will be carefully considered by a panel of independent judges, who will select the class of 2020. The deadline for nominations is July 1. For more information on how to nominate someone for the Healthcare Heroes class of 2020, visit businesswest.com/healthcare-heroes/nomination-form. Videos can be sent via dropbox to [email protected]. Healthcare Heroes is sponsored by Comcast Business and Elms College.

Estate Planning Conference

June 30: Mark Esposito, an attorney at Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin, P.C., will speak at the 21st Annual Estate Planning Conference of Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education Inc. (MCLE) on Tuesday, June 30. He will contribute to an expert panel discussion titled “What’s Up in the World of Fiduciary Litigation?” at the 2020 conference, which will take place as a live webcast from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The recorded webcast will be shown during that timeframe on Tuesday, July 14. Esposito joined Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin in 2017 and concentrates his practice in general litigation, with particular emphasis on commercial, trust and estate, and employment and labor litigation. He has counseled various public-sector labor unions and employees in collective bargaining, negotiations, arbitration, and litigation, representing clients in state and federal court as well as before administrative agencies.

Nominations for Humane Awards

Through July 31: Dakin Humane Society is accepting nominations from the public for its Dakin Humane Awards until July 31. Nominees should be people who go out of their way to care for animals in need, people who volunteer to help animals, or people and/or animals who have provided significant public service or shown courage in a crisis. Finalists in each of the award categories will be picked from among the nominees and notified of their selection in August. The award ceremony will be livestreamed at a later date in the fall, and one winner in each of the categories will be announced. There are five awards to be bestowed: the Frances M. Wells Award, given to an individual recognized for notable contributions to the health and welfare of animals; the Youth Award, honoring a hero, age 16 or younger, whose extraordinary care and compassion makes a difference in the life of an animal, and makes the world a kinder and gentler place; the Champion Award, given to a public servant who makes life better for tens of thousands of animals and people in their community, and recognizing their dedication and compassion on behalf of animals and people in need; the Richard and Nathalie Woodbury Philanthropy Award, paying homage to an individual who displays a remarkable sense of stewardship in sharing time, talent, and financial resources to improve the lives of animals and people who love them; and the Animal Hero Award, recognizing an exceptional animal and handler (when applicable) whose valor and extraordinary devotion to people proved life-saving in disastrous or challenging heath circumstances. Nominations are being accepted online only at bit.ly/2NOcgps. Mail-in nominations will not be accepted.

Submission Period for Virtual Art Show

Through Aug. 13: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NAMI Western Massachusetts will present a virtual art show this year, and is now accepting artwork for the show. Submissions are limited to individuals living with a mental-health diagnosis, and the artwork will be displayed on the organization’s website and social-media pages for a limited time, then switched out for new artwork. To submit, e-mail a picture of the art to [email protected] Note the size of the piece, the medium, and the price if it is for sale. The artist should also specify if they want their name used. The deadline for submissions is Aug. 13.

MCLA Gallery 51 Virtual Artist Series

June 27 to Aug. 8: MCLA Gallery 51 announced that its new online program, the G51 Virtual Artist Series, will be held live on Zoom, at noon on alternating Saturdays. Local, regional, national, and international artists will give virtual tours of their studios and discuss their practices. Discussions with the artists will also be recorded for later viewing. The series kicked off on May 16. The gallery’s full spring programming schedule is available on its website. Upcoming artists include Gladys Kalichini (June 13), who is known for paintings, digital work, and installations that explore history and the marginalization of certain groups; Todd Elliott (June 27), a multi-disciplinary artist whose work is inspired by shapes and forms used in architectural motifs, transpiration design, typography, and logos; Sula Bermudez-Silverman (July 11), whose conceptual work intertwines multiple issues, investigating and critiquing the issues of race, gender, and economics; Kim Faler (July 25), a local, multi-disciplinary artist working in painting, drawing, installation, sculpture, and photography, whose art practice unpacks the emotional weight found within everyday objects and architecture; and Anina Major (Aug. 8), who works with topics of identity, slavery, the female body, Bahamian culture, and more. She considers her creative practice to be a response to continuous erasure and a culture that is constantly being oversimplified.

Elms College Executive Leadership Breakfast

Sept. 22: Elms College has rescheduled its third annual Executive Leadership Breakfast due to state-mandated caution regarding large crowds and coronavirus. U.S. Rep. Richard Neal is still slated to be the keynote speaker for the event, which was originally scheduled for April 9. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, the college will announce more details as necessary. This annual event features talks by the region’s leaders on topics of relevance that impact all sectors of business and the economy in Western Mass. Speakers at past events have included Dennis Duquette, head of Community Responsibility at MassMutual and president of the MassMutual Foundation, and Regina Noonan Hitchery, retired vice president of Human Resources at Alcoa.

Company Notebook

Mill Town Buys Bousquet Mountain

PITTSFIELD — Mill Town, a community-impact investment firm, announced it has acquired Bousquet Mountain, one of the oldest ski areas in the country and a training ground for many top U.S. ski racers, from the Tamarack Ski Nominee Trust and owners Sherry and P.J. Roberts. The sale includes 155 acres across four parcels, including the summit of Yokun Ridge, 22 trails, multiple buildings, and operational equipment. “We are excited to keep Bousquet as a vital recreational resource for the region,” said Tim Burke, Mill Town’s CEO and managing director. “A significant focus of our work is to invest in and improve businesses, real estate, and outdoor recreational assets in Pittsfield to make it a stronger city and an appealing place for families and employers. Bousquet met all of these criteria. We plan to invest in the ski-operation infrastructure and the lodge, and we are excited to work with strong partners to enhance the on-mountain experience.” On that front, Mill Town and Berkshire East Mountain Resort of Charlemont announced a collaboration agreement. As part of this agreement, Berkshire East and Catamount management, including owners Jon and Jim Schaefer, will advise Bousquet on capital and operational decisions and investments. Bousquet will also be a component of the Berkshire Pass, joining Berkshire East and Catamount as the third mountain to be featured as part of this season-pass program. “We are thrilled to partner with Mill Town to ensure Bousquet will be a respected skiing and outdoor-recreation asset for years to come,” Jim and Jon Schaefer said. “Positioned between Berkshire East and Catamount, we feel that Bousquet will provide significant value to Berkshire Pass holders as another great skiing and riding option in Western Massachusetts. We think there is a great future here.”

Springfield College Students Assist with COVID-19 Data Project

SPRINGFIELD — Students from the Springfield College health science major have been working on a national project to track the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. Students Yue Li, Ashley Tanner, Alexandra Christine Jones, Brenna Keefe, Dhruvi Patel, and Callie Dowd have been taking part in an internship to assist with this project. Participating students are responsible for tracking historical data and collecting daily data, as well as participating in special-interest team projects that include computer-based automation, data visualization, infectious disease, policy, social media, and fundraising. This internship is part of BroadStreet’s COVID-19 Data Project, a collaboration of more than 200 students, statisticians, epidemiologists, healthcare experts, and data scientists throughout the country, Springfield College Assistant Professor of Public Health Sofija Zagarins explained. The project is a collaboration of more than 40 colleges and universities throughout the U.S., bringing together people who are committed to having the most accurate, community-level data about COVID-19 positive tests and fatality rates. Along with Springfield College, colleges and universities also taking part include Harvard University, Yale University, Boston University, Temple University, and Duke University. Through BroadStreet’s COVID-19 Data Project Internship, healthcare professionals have access to data that can help them to improve how they spend their time and resources on improving community health. “We have been humbled by the outpouring of support, especially from the collegiate community,” BroadStreet co-founder Tracy Flood said. “We know that, right now, students have a unique set of challenges trying to navigate these difficult times. Despite this, we wanted to recognize students who have graciously donated their time and talent to our project.” For more information about the project, visit covid19dataproject.org to follow along with information and updates from the participants.

Eversource Completes Westfield Reliability Project

WESTFIELD — Eversource has completed construction of the Westfield Reliability Project, installing a three-mile-long electric circuit on an existing 115-kilovolt overhead transmission line in Westfield to help ensure the continued and safe delivery of reliable power. Part of the energy company’s work to ensure reliability for customers, the Westfield Reliability Project is one of many transmission upgrades to help meet the electric system’s evolving needs to support a clean-energy future. “With many people continuing to work and learn from home, the safe and reliable delivery of power has never been more essential than it is during these uncertain times,” said Eversource President of Transmission Bill Quinlan. “The completion of the Westfield Reliability Project is an exciting development in our efforts to serve our customers and to support economic growth in the future. As restoration and landscaping continue through the spring and summer, we will maintain close communication and collaboration with our host communities, property owners, and businesses while adhering to social distancing and other best practices to safeguard health and prevent the spread of COVID-19.” The power lines have been installed on existing structures along the right of way from the Pochassic substation, near Oakdale Avenue, to the Buck Pond substation near Medeiros Way. The Westfield Reliability Project also includes constructing new equipment adjacent to Eversource’s existing Pochassic substation and related upgrades to the Buck Pond substation. Eversource representatives have been working closely with city officials. As the energy company’s crews and contractors work to complete final construction activities, including environmental monitoring and reporting, they continue to follow strict safety precautions, including practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings, and using enhanced sanitation practices. “We are grateful to our host communities for their input and partnership throughout the planning process, as well as their understanding and patience, as we work together to serve the public during the pandemic,” Quinlan said. “We remain committed to being a good neighbor and environmental steward as this project will deliver benefits to the region for years to come.” This project is one of several designed to strengthen the electric system serving Pittsfield, Greenfield, and surrounding areas.

Area Nonprofits Receive $230,000 from Harvard Pilgrim Foundation

WORCESTER — A total of 25 Central and Western Mass. nonprofits have received nearly $230,000 from the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation for COVID-19 relief efforts. Most organizations in the region received a $10,000 grant for supporting community needs during the pandemic, such as food access and meal delivery, services for older adults and immigrant families, social and community services, and emergency response. “Now more than ever, it is so critical to support our communities and organizations who are providing services to those residents of Central and Western Mass. impacted by COVID-19,” said Patrick Cahill, vice president and Massachusetts market lead for Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, the foundation’s parent company. “The impact of this pandemic is enormous, and right from the start, we responded to the immediate needs facing nonprofit partners and communities. We are very grateful to all who are helping to feed and care for our community members, and we are committed to supporting them in the weeks and months ahead.” Among the 25 recipients, the following 10 Western Mass. organizations received funding as part of the Harvard Pilgrim Foundation’s COVID-19 Assistance Fund: Berkshire County Arc (Pittsfield), Gardening the Community (Springfield), Greater Springfield Senior Services (Springfield), Grow Food Northampton (Northampton), Just Roots Inc. (Greenfield), Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen & Pantry (Chicopee), Nuestras Raices Inc. (Holyoke), Rooting Rises (Pittsfield), Stone Soup Café Inc. (Greenfield), and UMass Amherst. The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation committed more than $3.5 million in initial grants for COVID-19 relief efforts in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Connecticut.

Company Notebook

Olver Design Building Receives Architecture Institute’s Highest Honor

AMHERST — The American Institute of Architecture’s (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE) announced recently that the John W. Olver Design Building on the UMass Amherst campus is a winner this year of its highest honor, the COTE Top Ten Awards. Projects “illustrate the solutions architects have provided for the health and welfare of our communities and the planet,” the AIA citation says. Called the most technologically advanced CLT building in the country, the Design Building opened in 2017 to house the campus’s Department of Architecture, Building and Construction Technology Program (BCT), and Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning. The BCT program developed some of the CLT technology used and has since been testing native Massachusetts wood species for CLT suitability. The building is named for former congressman and UMass Amherst Chemistry professor John Olver and was designed by Boston architectural firm Leers Weinzapfel. In 2014, Olver attended a talk by associate professor of Environmental Conservation Peggi Clouston of the BCT program. She noted how CLT construction using lower-quality wood was enjoying a comeback. Olver, recognizing an expanded use for regional wood, encouraged campus officials to consider adopting the new technology. Built of CLT timber and glue-laminated columns, the 87,000-square-foot Design Building saves the equivalent of more than 2,300 metric tons of carbon compared to a traditional energy-intense steel and concrete building. It uses 54% less energy than a typical campus building and is one of two in North America to use CLT for wind and seismic resistance. Its footprint once a parking lot, the building now includes a rooftop garden and rain-garden landscaping. A central courtyard highlights natural light while reducing heat loss. Its open central stairway invites visitors to take the stairs instead of an elevator.

Whittlesey Achieves Blue Partner Status with Datto

HARTFORD, Conn — Whittlesey announced it has achieved exclusive Blue partner status with Datto, the world’s leading provider of IT solutions delivered through managed service providers (MSPs). Datto Blue status represents the top 5% of the company’s partners worldwide. “We’ve been partnered with Datto since 2014,” said Mark Torello, partner in charge of Whittlesey Technology. “We’ve been growing with them as they’ve branched out from data backup and recovery products to networking, cloud continuity, and device management. The reliability of their products and services and outstanding customer and technical support have been consistently top‐notch and provided us the resources to accelerate our business growth. It’s an honor to be acknowledged for putting these products and tools to use and demonstrating success.” Whittlesey has exceeded high standards of performance to qualify for Blue status within Datto’s Global Partner Program, the highest classification provided by Datto. Blue status includes many exclusive programs and benefits designed to support further enablement and business growth.

TRE Olive Wins Two Awards at International Olive Oil Competition

EAST LONGMEADOW — TRE Olive, located in East Longmeadow, is both a Gold and Silver award winner at this year’s 2020 New York International Olive Oil Competition. The NYIOOC is held each spring in New York and is the world’s largest and most prestigious olive oil contest. Its annual listing of award winners is considered the authoritative guide to the year’s best extra-virgin olive oils, according to Joe Maruca, co-owner of TRE Olive. TRE Olive won the Gold Award for Campo Dieci “Terra dei Nonni,” which means ‘land of our grandparents.’ The Silver was awarded for its TRE Olive Select. In addition to its award-winning extra-virgin olive oil, TRE Olive also offers a tree-adoption program. When an olive tree is adopted, the recipient will receive an adoption certificate, a gift box, a photo of their tree, a welcome brochure, and three tins of olive oil to get started. The tree is also tagged with the adoptee’s name for one year.

Paragus IT Named to Forbes ‘Small Giants’ List

HADLEY — Every year, Forbes publishes its “Small Giants” list highlighting 25 businesses “whose commitment to greatness over fast growth has enabled them to best serve their customers, employees, and communities.” This year, Paragus IT was recognized as an innovator in the small-business world, with Forbes citing the Hadley-based firm’s employee-ownership structure and mission to make IT fun, among other features. “It’s an honor to be included on such a diverse and amazing list of other small businesses around the country,” said Delcie Bean, CEO of Paragus IT. “And it’s great that a magazine as prestigious as Forbes is committed to appreciating what makes small businesses great. As an employee-owned company, our employees, or partners, as we call them, were so excited to be recognized for our passion for making IT fun.”

Bacon Wilson Donates $10,000 to YMCA of Greater Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — Bacon Wilson announced that the firm has recently completed a $10,000 contribution to the capital campaign for the YMCA of Greater Springfield. The pledge originated in the fall of 2019, as Bacon Wilson supported the YMCA’s transition from the former Chestnut Street location to the new Tower Square facility in downtown Springfield. “My partners and I are very pleased to be able to support the Springfield YMCA at this critical moment,” said attorney Kenneth Albano, Bacon Wilson’s managing partner. “Bacon Wilson is pleased to know our contribution will boost the mission and continuing good works of the YMCA of Greater Springfield.”

Bay Path Launches Master’s Program in Learning, Design, and Technology

LONGMEADOW — As an onslaught of complex challenges, and the urgency to develop innovative solutions to meet them, promise to reshape higher education, Bay Path University announces the launch of a new master’s program in Learning, Design, and Technology (LDT) this fall. The fully online program will tap into Bay Path’s long-standing position as a leader in the use of emerging technologies, creative curricula, and learning analytics to train professionals looking to shape the ongoing evolution of higher education by applying technology to the development of innovative, accessible, and impactful learning processes. Designed by a broadly representative team of Bay Path faculty and staff, the LDT program was launched to give students a students a deep foundation in the tools and theory of learning design, technology innovation, learning analytics, and higher-education leadership, a foundation on which they can create engaging and innovative learning experiences for all students. Students will also have the opportunity to enroll jointly in Bay Path’s doctoral program in Higher Education Leadership and Organizational Studies (HELOS) and carry out applied, real-world learning design projects. While the launch comes at a time when the coronavirus has transformed campuses, Bay Path has used technology to pioneer unique teaching and learning formats and offer flexible, dynamic, and personalized educational experiences for 20 years. The university’s diverse student population includes its traditional on-campus undergraduates, online graduate students, and online adult learners obtaining bachelor’s degrees through the American Women’s College. 

Food Insecurity Prompts Big Y to Make Second Round of Donations

SPRINGFIELD — With regional food banks experiencing unprecedented demand, Big Y is providing an additional $125,000 in support to address the rise in food insecurity. With the donations made in March, Big Y has provided $250,000 in financial assistance to area food banks in addition to the healthy surplus food it provides to them on a weekly basis. Using the estimate that every dollar donated provides four meals, the Big Y financial assistance amounts to 1 million meals. The donation will be split equally by the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, the Worcester County Food Bank, and the Greater Boston Food Bank in Massachusetts, as well as Foodshare and the Connecticut Food Bank in Connecticut. As part of its commitment to hunger relief in its neighborhoods and ongoing partnerships with regional food banks, Big Y provided an estimated $11.5 million of healthy surplus food to these organizations in 2019. This food donation amounts to an estimated 5.7 million meals, two-thirds of which include donations of meat and fresh produce as well as bakery and non-perishable grocery items. Frozen food and dairy products account for one-third of the annual donation.

MCLA Innovation & Entrepreneurship Challenge Announces Three Winners

NORTH ADAMS — Although this year’s Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) Innovation & Entrepreneurship Challenge, held May 4-8, was a virtual affair, the college community still came together to view and vote for the three finalists’ pitches. The finalists, all seniors, who pitched their business ideas via video, were David Flight, Kimberly Granito, and Sierra Lamonde. The students were coached through a series of deliverables — determining a solution to a problem, developing a budget and business plan as the road map for the project or business, and presenting before a panel of judges. Granito’s Detailing Dream won first place, which came with a $7,500 award. Lamonde’s Pyrography Crafts placed second, for a $5,000 award, and Flight’s Settling the States won the $2,500 third-place award. The startup funding awards aim to cover inventory, equipment, and marketing costs for the three new businesses. Granito’s winning business, Detailing Dream, is a car-detailing service meant to cater to people who may think they don’t have the time or money for such a service. Granito’s packages include lower-cost options that other companies don’t offer because they usually cater to luxury cars. Unlike most of her competitors, Granito’s business would also include a mobile option where she would come to the customer, so they could take advantage of the service without leaving their home or office. Second-place winner Lamonde said her business, Pyrography Crafts, aims to bring joy to customers by creating one-of-a-kind, handcrafted wood burnings of people, pets and other animals, cartoons, and more. Flight’s Settling the States is a company that designs legacy board games inspired by the geographical regions of the U.S. The company’s first product, Settling New England, has players compete against each other to survive the changing seasons to become legend settlers.

Monson Savings Bank Announces New Loan & Operations Center

MONSON — Because Monson Savings Bank continues to grow by adding new positions and new personnel, and has outgrown some of its spaces, some employees are moving this week into a new, 12,000-square-foot office space on the top floor at 75 Post Office Park in Wilbraham. This location will be the new Monson Savings Bank Loan & Operations Center. The following departments will be moving: Commercial Lending, Residential Lending, Collections, Compliance, Retail Administration, Retail Operations, Business Development, Municipal Banking, and E-Banking. The main branch and corporate headquarters will still be located in Monson.

Taylor Real Estate Moving to Liberty Street in Easthampton

EASTHAMPTON — Taylor Real Estate, which is celebrating 65 years of operation this year, announced it will move to a new location on Liberty Street in Easthampton this month. Chuck Conner, a third-generation owner of the business founded by his grandfather in 1955, said the new office space offers convenient off-street parking for clients and staff as well as on-site storage for the firm’s plentiful ‘for sale’ signage, and a newer, brighter workspace for staff. He noted that the move is symbolic of moving the firm into the future, when ownership and operations will be assumed by his daughters, Megan Conner and Danica Achin, both licensed Realtors with the firm. In addition to working with buyers and sellers, Megan handles administration and advertising, and Achin is the rental division manager. Additional change has come in the form of new technology that allows a digital approach to marketing and communication and the execution of documentation. Houses can be shown to potential buyers via virtual visits made possible by professional photography, and closing papers can be signed electronically.

Company Notebook

Country Bank Donates $75,000 as Part of ‘Neighbors in Need’ Program

WARE — As the pandemic continues to disrupt business activities both nationally and in Massachusetts, Country Bank announced a $75,000 series of donations designed to assist organizations on the front lines. As the latest installment in a string of recent financial support, the bank will be facilitating donations to select organizations throughout its market from Springfield to Worcester. The Greater Worcester Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts will each receive $25,000 to provide additional grant funding for critical-needs programs. These programs offer support for vulnerable seniors, those without stable housing, with limited English proficiency, and with compromised health conditions, including mental health and drug addiction. Other programs receiving a contribution include: Springfield Rescue Mission and Friends of the Homeless in Springfield; and Abby’s House, Saint John’s Food Pantry, and the Boys and Girls Club in Worcester. These donations will assist in continuing to meet the ever-changing needs in their communities. Many nonprofit organizations are not only combating reduced financial support as many businesses are closed, but also face a lack of volunteers, and have to continually evolve how they support their clients while keeping everyone safe on a limited budget and with limited resources. “This is an uncharted time for our bank, our customers, and our local business community. As part of our effort to assist those most affected by COVID-19, Country Bank has already donated $400,000 to help local hospitals, first-responder recovery centers, food pantries, homeless shelters, veterans, children, and community foundations,” said Paul Scully, president and CEO of Country Bank. “We continually look for opportunities where we can help make a difference in the health and well-being of the people in our communities.”

Westfield Bank Future Fund Announces 2019 Giving Totals

WESTFIELD — Westfield Bank announced that the Future Fund, a philanthropic endeavor dedicated to supporting local 501(c)(3) organizations that have a positive impact on the region’s educational, recreational, cultural, and social well-being, awarded more than $300,000 to more than 40 organizations in Western Mass. and Northern Conn. in 2019. Grant recipients included the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield, Domus Inc., Farmington Valley YMCA, Friends of the Holyoke Soldiers Home, Girls Inc. of the Valley, the Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee, Junior Achievement of Southwest New England, Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Spirit of Springfield, and the YMCA of Greater Westfield. According to James Hagan, and CEO of Westfield Bank, the Future Fund awards hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants each year to qualifying organizations whose applications are accepted. “There are so many people and groups in our communities that have devoted themselves to making life better for all of us, and especially the young people who represent our future, and we know that supplying needed services presents financial and logistical challenges that grow with each passing year,” he said. “The Future Fund, and Westfield Bank, are dedicated to providing needed support to worthy organizations that enrich and define life in the towns and cities we serve.” In addition to the Future Fund grants, Westfield Bank contributed more than $400,000 to help sponsor community and performing-arts events, youth sports teams, fundraisers, and more. The bank also donated more than $500,000 to local organizations via the Chicopee Savings Charitable Foundation, an affiliate of Westfield Bank. In total, Westfield Bank provided more than $1.2 million in local and regional philanthropic support in 2019.

Springfield College AmeriCorps, Parent Villages Begin Mask Project

SPRINGFIELD — Members of the Springfield College AmeriCorps program are partnering with Parent Villages Inc. and other local nonprofits to lead the Village Engagement Matters initiative, a program committed to providing community members with face masks at no cost to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The initial distribution of protective facemasks took place on May 12 at three meal-distribution sites located at Springfield elementary schools. Springfield College AmeriCorps members have been assisting with the production of the masks, and also helping with the planning of the distribution efforts. “Giving back to our community is always something we have done in our family, and we are committed to helping with this project,” said Springfield College AmeriCorps member and social-work student Molly Glynn. “My mom and I started making masks for our family members, but that quickly has turned into helping our community as well. What I like about the Olson mask pattern we are using is, it provides a pattern to make masks for both adults and kids, and the pattern also allows for a pocket on the inside for a micron filter to help those individuals who are at a higher risk of contracting the virus.” Added Parent Villages Inc. CEO Lakisha Coppedge, “the Parent Villages organization always tries to stay in touch and learn about items that community members really need, and obviously right now the masks are at a high demand. Springfield College stepped up to the plate to help, and we can’t thank the college enough to make this project a reality, and always being there to help our community members.” During these challenging times of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, Springfield College AmeriCorps members continue to seek opportunities to serve the Greater Springfield area, including volunteering their time making sure the Village Engagement Matters initiative is a success. “It really means a lot to have AmeriCorps members finding ways to support others,” said Springfield College AmeriCorps Director LaTonia Naylor. “We continue to live our Humanics mission at Springfield College of educating students in spirit, mind, and body for leadership and service to others. It brings me so much joy to watch people step up and show love and support for our community members.”

United Way of Pioneer Valley Announces EFSP Grant Funding

SPRINGFIELD — United Way of Pioneer Valley (UWPV) has been appointed administrator for Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) grant funding from FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security, which appropriated supplemental funding in the amount of $194,555 for Phase 37 and $277,380 for CARES grants. With a board comprised of local community leaders, UWPV will determine funding allocation through a competitive application process. These funds will be used to supplement existing food and shelter services, and cannot be given to start new programs. Funding for Phase 37 and CARES-funded grants is now available. Nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations that serve Hampden County, South Hadley, or Granby may apply. Allocations are to be applied toward supplementing existing food and shelter services. Applications are due by Friday, May 22 at noon. For information or to apply, contact Nicole Young, manager of Community Investments, at [email protected]

Vann Group Becomes Licensed Practioner of Predictable Success

SPRINGFIELD — The Vann Group, LLC announced that Michael Vann has recently become a licensed practioner of the Predictable Success, a business-growth methodology that over the last 30 years has been used to scale hundreds of businesses and not-for-profit organizations. Widely recognized as one of the most powerful organizational growth models available, Predictable Success was developed by Les McKeown, a successful entrepreneur and business-growth advisor. McKeown is the author of the bestselling book Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization on the Growth Track and Keeping It There, as well as the companion book, The Synergist: How to Lead Your Team to Predictable Success. Until recently, access to the full model was available only through McKeown. Michael Vann is part of the first cohort of licensed practioners. “I’ve been working with growth models for the past 20 years but have never come across one as powerful as Predictable Success. It isn’t an academic model or a hypothetical theory; it’s a proven, real-world process that enables any organization to scale successfully,” Vann said. “What I find really valuable about Predictable Success is its ability to get to the root cause of an organization’s issues rather than trying to solve symptoms. It integrates very well with our core methodology and tool set. It has been a great addition for our clients that are looking to grow and build value.” Les McKeown, the founder and CEO of Predictable Success, noted that “I’m absolutely delighted to have Michael join our growing group of licensed practitioners. Michael’s background as a trusted advisor and consultant makes him a stellar addition to our group, and I know his existing client base will benefit enormously from his access to the Predictable Success growth model, especially in these precarious times.” The Predictable Success model is intuitive and non-complex and can easily be implemented with the completion of a workshop. In conjunction with the Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund, the Vann Group has several Predictable Success workshops approved under the Express Grant Program. The program will reimburse eligible businesses for up to 50% of the actual cost of training. Contact the Vann Group for additional information.

Pioneer Valley College Students Recognized for Entrepreneurship

AGAWAM — Eighty-six students from 14 local colleges and universities recently received awards for their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, with 55 unique businesses and business concepts represented. News of the 2020 Grinspoon Entrepreneurship Initiative (EI) Entrepreneurial Spirit Awards came at about the same time as participating students’ semesters were disrupted by COVID-19. Soon thereafter, the annual entrepreneurship banquet, where more than 450 people were scheduled to attend to celebrate these students, was canceled. The Grinspoon EI class of 2020 received their award checks of up to $1,000 by mail, and they and continue to be mentored by their Grinspoon EI faculty advisors. This year’s entrepreneurial class represents many diverse concepts and businesses. Some examples include:

• Bac-Be-Gone, bacteriocin-based cleaning products (Hadley Beauregard, Hailey Charest, and Bryanna Lexus Freitas, UMass Amherst);

• Keifer Games, a clever tabletop game for creative thinkers (Matthew Kiefer, UMass Amherst);

• Nashion, a new material for salon gel nails (Sona Kim, Amherst College);

• PAL, a prosthetic airliner medical device (Courtney Carlson, Kelsey Hastings, and Olivia Truenow, Western New England University); and

• Slacktyde, eco-art and eco-friendly clothing (Camila Mirow, Mount Holyoke College).

Mary Schoonmaker, Grinspoon EI faculty advisor and assistant professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship at Western New England University, noted that “the Grinspoon Foundation Spirit Awards are foundational to building entrepreneurial self-efficacy. Past and present recipients have appreciated the confidence building and encouragement to advance their innovations.” This year’s Grinspoon, Garvey & Young Alumni Award went to Justin Park, founder and CEO of QL Gaming Group, a direct-to-consumer sports-betting data and iGaming affiliate platform. This annual award is given to a former Entrepreneurial Spirit Award winner who has advanced their entrepreneurial endeavors. It is named after Grinspoon’s original business partners, Tom Garvey and Bill Young. “The Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation has provided me with encouragement since 2012 to pursue my passion in entrepreneurship,” Park said.

Agenda

Difference Makers

Sept. 10: BusinessWest will present its 12th annual Difference Makers event on Sept. 10 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. The class of 2020 was profiled in the Feb. 3 issue of BusinessWest and at businesswest.com. Tickets cost $75. To reserve a spot, e-mail [email protected] or visit businesswest.com. Event sponsors include Burkhart Pizzanelli, Mercy Medical Center/Trinity Health Of New England, Royal, P.C., and TommyCar Auto Group, while the Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament, MHA, and United Way of Pioneer Valley are partners.

Elms College Executive Leadership Breakfast

Sept. 22: Elms College has rescheduled its third annual Executive Leadership Breakfast due to state-mandated caution regarding large crowds and coronavirus. U.S. Rep. Richard Neal is still slated to be the keynote speaker for the event, which was originally scheduled for April 9. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, the college will announce more details as necessary. This annual event features talks by the region’s leaders on topics of relevance that impact all sectors of business and the economy in Western Mass. Speakers at past events have included Dennis Duquette, head of Community Responsibility at MassMutual and president of the MassMutual Foundation, and Regina Noonan Hitchery, retired vice president of Human Resources at Alcoa.

Hooplandia

June 25-27, 2021: Organizers of Hooplandia, the planned 3-on-3 basketball tournament and festival scheduled for this June, announced that the event has been postponed to 2021, with games hosted by the Big E Fairgrounds and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Boys and Girls Clubs in Western Massachusetts and Connecticut will remain the lead philanthropic recipient of the event, which was slated to host 2,500 teams and 10,000 players. To help build a bridge to the 2021 Hooplandia, a number of smaller events are being planned, with details forthcoming. Those include Hooplandia at the Hall of Fame Enshrinement, a series of 3-on-3 games in the parking lot of the Hall during Springfield Celebration Day on Sunday, Aug. 30, as part of Enshrinement Weekend activities; the Hooplandia World Slam Dunk Championship at the Big E in September, featuring slam-dunk artists from around the world competing for the title of Hooplandia World Slam Dunk Champ; and Hooplandia Showcase Games on the Court of Dreams at the Basketball Hall of Fame, a series of high-profile 3-on-3 games to be scheduled for competition this winter on the legendary hardwood. Details of all events will be announced as they emerge. All teams that have registered and paid for Hooplandia will be issued full refunds. Teams of players age 8 and under were slated for free registration in 2020, honoring the lives of Kobe and Gianna Bryant — Bryant wore #8 during a portion of his Los Angeles Lakers career in the NBA. The free under-8 registration will be extended to the 2021 event. Hooplandia’s Instagram account (@hooplandia) and website (www.hooplandia.com) will provide ongoing information and plans for the event and its transition.

Company Notebook

PeoplesBank Issues Annual Corporate Green Report

HOLYOKE — PeoplesBank issued its 2020 annual Corporate Green Report in recognition of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Through its green values and actions to support environmental sustainability, PeoplesBank believes it can help make the region a healthier place in which to live, work, and raise a family. The bank puts these values to work throughout the year through its charitable donations, volunteerism, support of green-energy projects, and construction of LEED-certified offices. PeoplesBank is also a longtime leader in sustainable-energy financing, and the bank’s commercial lenders are recognized for their expertise in creating financing packages for green-energy power generation. To date, the bank has financed more than $188 million in wind, solar, and hydroelectric power-generation projects. Over 2019-20, PeoplesBank supported several green community projects in Western Mass., including the Center for EcoTechnology’s ‘eco fellows’ and more than 100 community-education events; the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) Food for All campaign; e-recycle and shred day at the bank’s Suffield Banking Center; Grow Food Northampton; the Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s Local Farmer program and awards; scientific environmental education at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment; a mobile farmers’ market that travels to underserved/food-desert areas of Springfield and surrounding communities; the Source to Sea Cleanup of the Connecticut River, which also includes hands-on participation by a team of volunteers from the bank; and ValleyBike Share, the region’s new bike-sharing program. Community banks, like PeoplesBank, are not generally known for building green offices, but PeoplesBank has a LEED Gold-certified office in Northampton, a LEED Gold-certified office in West Springfield, and a LEED Silver-certified office in Springfield. The LEED-certified office in Springfield, the first of its kind in the city, won a Green Seal from the city of Springfield. The bank will pursue a fourth LEED certification for its Pedlar Banking Center in Holyoke in the near future. Three PeoplesBank offices (Northampton, West Springfield, and 330 Whitney Ave. in Holyoke) have electric vehicle-charging stations. The bank also launched a “Choose to Reuse” campaign designed to eliminate the use of disposable paper products internally. PeoplesBank has traditionally commemorated Earth Day by giving away tomato plants and seeds at several banking centers throughout the region. Due to the extenuating circumstances this year, in lieu of those customer giveaways, a donation will be made to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts to assist in its COVID relief outreach.

Contribution Clothing Supports Women-focused Nonprofits

SPRINGFIELD — Kelly Partridge, founder of Contribution Clothing, launched her mission-driven online boutique (contributionclothing.com) last June. The boutique, which retails women’s apparel and accessories, provides quarterly monetary donations to Western Mass.-based nonprofit organizations that have a vision of empowering women and girls as well as community support. Contribution Clothing is currently working to gift 15% of its net profits to the Care Center of Holyoke, a nonprofit organization that helps young mothers grasp how powerful they are, gives them tools to learn, and provides them with an exciting and engaging learning environment. Since its website launch, the boutique has provided monetary donations to Dress for Success, Empty Arms Bereavement Support, Ovations for the Cure of Ovarian Cancer, Shriners, Girls Inc. of the Valley, and Safe Passage. In additional to the boutique’s quarterly contributions, Partridge, a Bay Path University alumna, has worked with the university to create the Contribution Clothing Scholarship Fund, which annually provides a Bay Path student with $500 toward tuition. The clothing line has also supported community-based events and fundraisers such as the Hot Chocolate Run for Safe Passage, the Women Empowered calendar for Girls Inc., and the Unify Against Bullying fashion show, where Partridge provided six different outfits to help raise awareness against bullying. Partridge’s goal for her business is to use her story and passion for social justice to make a positive impact within her community. She hopes to use fashion as a way of helping women feel confident and empowered.

MGHPCC Expands Access to Researchers Working on COVID-19

HOLYOKE — The Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC), operated by a consortium consisting of Boston University, Harvard University, MIT, Northeastern University, and the University of Massachusetts system, announced it will provide access to outside researchers working on projects in which high-speed computing would accelerate resolution of the COVID-19 crisis. The MGHPCC’s member institutions are already heavily engaged in coronavirus-related research in areas that include understanding the fundamentals of the disease, contributing to the development of vaccines, treatment and tests, and public-health solutions. Much of this research, and most scientific academic research today, rely on high-performance computing. The MGHPCC, which is among the largest high-performance computing facilities in the country, is now expanding access to its storage and computational systems to academic and commercial enterprises beyond the facility’s member institutions. Total available capacity across all systems includes more than 200,000 CPU cores, 2,000 recent-generation GPUs, and 5 petabytes of temporary storage. The additional work will not impact day-to-day university needs. The MGHPCC consortium is also working with Mass Open Cloud and two of its sponsors, Red Hat and Intel, to launch a site that connects potentially impactful projects with people who have strong computing skills but are unable to work on their regular assignments due to travel restrictions.

Home City Development Wins Funds for Affordable-housing Renovations

NORTHAMPTON — Home City Development Inc. (HCDI), a Springfield-based affordable-housing development organization, was awarded $2.88 million and seven project-based vouchers by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Funds were awarded for renovations of New South Street Apartments, an 18-unit historic building located at 24-34 New South St. in Northampton. Project-based vouchers and supportive service funds will provide housing for seven homeless families. In addition, the city of Northampton awarded $50,000 of Community Development Block Grant funds for this project. Homeless households will be selected from the Three County Continuum of Care Coordinated Entry system. This system includes Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire county emergency-assistance shelters and other assistance organizations. HCDI will provide case management and related support services for residents at New South Street Apartments, including those who were formerly homeless. HCDI is working with Architecture EL as project architect and Henry General Contractors as contractor. Renovation work is expected to begin this fall and take about nine months to complete. Home City Development Inc. is a nonprofit, resident-centered developer of multi-family and mixed-use properties in Western Mass. HCDI was founded as Better Homes Inc. in 1968 by the Springfield Chamber of Commerce. Over more than 50 years, HCDI has worked to facilitate community stability and growth in collaboration with numerous partners and residents.

Freedom Credit Union Makes $55,000 Donation to Fight Coronavirus Crisis

SPRINGFIELD — Freedom Credit Union (FCU) announced a donation of $55,000 to be dispersed among several community organizations at the front lines of the local fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. FCU announced that the following slate of organizations will receive a portion of the $55,000 donation: Baystate Health Foundation; Mercy Medical Center; Cooley Dickinson Health Care; the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts; Hampshire Hospitality Group, whose Hampshire County Heroes feed first responders in Hampshire County; and Feed the Fight, an initiative of Peter Pan Bus Lines and area restaurants to feed healthcare workers and first responders in the community. Welch indicated that FCU will continue to assist the community throughout the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to these community donations, Welch said FCU has offered resources to its individual members intended to provide financial assistance or relief during the crisis, including online banking services and the new Freedom Relief Loan, which provides up to $10,000 to members dealing with consequences of the pandemic, including layoffs, furloughs, and bills. In addition, FCU’s Skip-a-Pay program allows members with a consumer loan — auto, mortgage, home equity, or home improvement — to defer payments up to 90 days. Members should contact their local branch for details. FCU can also work with member businesses needing financial relief on their specific circumstances. Business members should speak with the Member Business Lending department. For contact information, visit freedom.coop.

 

First American Insurance Agency Launches New Client Portal

CHICOPEE — First American Insurance Agency, an independent insurance firm, announced the launch of a new online customer portal designed to enhance service and support for its customers. The portal, called CSR24, enables clients to access insurance ID cards and insurance documents (including renewal paperwork), request policy changes, and more. Clients can also submit claim photos, such as a cracked windshield. For truckers, the portal allows the quick and straightforward download of certificates. The portal is accessible on any device via the agency’s website and requires a login and username. The agency will release a matching app later in the year.

Phillips Insurance Delivers Pizza, Food Boxes to Clients, First Responders

CHICOPEE — Phillips Insurance partnered with clients Fazio’s Ristorante of East Longmeadow and Simos Produce of Springfield to deliver pizza and grocery boxes to its clients and first responders. Phillips Insurance delivered dozens of grocery boxes from Simos Produce to clients so they could avoid going to the supermarket. In addition, Phillips and Fazio’s Ristorante delivered pizzas and grinders to first responders and heathcare providers, while Phillips Insurance delivered pizza and subs to the Chicopee Police Department in appreciation of all they do for the community. Phillips Insurance Agency was established in 1953 and is a full-service risk-management firm with a staff of 28 professionals.

Western Mass. Wedding Vendors Say ‘Thank You’ to Frontline Workers

HOLYOKE — The wedding industry is being hit hard due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Couples are being forced to restructure or delay their wedding plans, leaving wedding vendors struggling with the financial challenges of delayed business. Thankfully, the wedding industry is also one marked by resilience and camaraderie. That is why a group of Western Mass. wedding vendors has come together to give back and say ‘thank you’ to frontline workers. Spearheaded by local DJ Anthony Corlis from TC’s Disc Jockey Services with assistance from the Log Cabin/Delaney House meal-donation program, more than 75 meals will be delivered to employees of Stop and Shop in Westfield today, April 24, at 11 a.m. by Corlis and Peter Rosskothen, owner of the Log Cabin/Delaney House. One of those employees just happens to be a Log Cabin groom who needed to reschedule his April 26 wedding. Meals were donated by Vivan B Photography, Events by Jackie M., Aliber Bridal Shops, Michelle Anne Hair Design, SHO Productions, Durocher’s Florist, Catherine Jindela, Kasey Richards of Mountain Rose Inn, TC’s Disc Jockey Services, and Log Cabin/Delaney House. Anyone looking to donate meals should visit delaneyhouse.com/feedalocalhero.

Wellfleet, EIS Group Partner on Innovative Insurance Solution

SPRINGFIELD — Wellfleet, a Berkshire Hathaway insurance company, and industry technology leader EIS Group are building a next-generation insurance-administration platform to meet the evolving demands of the employee-benefits market. In the complex voluntary-benefits landscape, brokers and their clients commonly work with multiple systems, fighting to integrate with carriers’ patchworked legacy systems. Whether it’s product sophistication, internal workflow monitoring, enrollment and third-party integration, or communications across multiple modules, carriers struggle to administer plans in a digitally unified way. Wellfleet Workplace entered the voluntary market last year, on a mission to be the digitally enabled carrier of choice. Partnering with EIS Group helps drive this differentiation by jointly creating an open-architecture and cloud-based software system designed to support the full broker and customer life cycle. The software provider’s cloud-based platform supports broker and customer life cycles, including rating and quoting, policy issuance and administration, and billing and claims management. Multi-channel touch points are easily created and managed through EIS Group’s digital-experience platform.

Pearson Wallace, Arbella Offer Premium Relief

AMHERST — Due to the current coronavirus pandemic, Arbella has committed to providing a 20% credit for three months on all personal auto policies until June 30. This is a per-vehicle refund that applies to existing and new policies from Pearson Wallace Insurance, said Alex Bennett, the agency’s vice president. Arbella Insurance also announced the Arbella Here. For Good. Give Back Program. Subject to approval by state regulators, Arbella’s personal auto customers will receive a credit equal to 20% of their auto premium for the months of April, May, and June. These savings would result in an estimated average of $60 per vehicle, and customers with multiple vehicles on their policy could see significant savings, Bennett noted.

Ascent Laser Aesthetics Introduces Innovative Hair-removal System

EAST LONGMEADOW — Ascent Laser Aesthetics, a medical spa located in East Longmeadow, has partnered with Cartessa Aesthetics to bring the hair-removal system Motux AX to the practice. Motux AX is the most effective laser wavelength for hair removal for the widest array of skin types, Dr. Kevin Coughlin said, adding that the procedure is virtually pain-free and significantly more comfortable than standard methods, while providing quicker treatment of large areas (less than five minutes) and fewer subsequent treatments to achieve optimal results. Through proprietary Moveo technology, risk of side effects is virtually non-existent.

EforAll Holyoke Launches Accelerator Program for Spanish-speaking Entrepreneurs

HOLYOKE — Continuing to expand its proven approach to help under-resourced individuals successfully start and grow their businesses, Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) Holyoke announced that it is accepting applications for its new EparaTodos program in Holyoke, which will focus on supporting Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs in the Greater Holyoke community. EforAll’s free, one-year business-accelerator program helps under-resourced individuals successfully start and grow their businesses or nonprofits across a wide range of industries, including personal and professional services, food, manufacturing, and both online and traditional retail. The program offers a combination of immersive business training, dedicated mentorship, and access to a professional network. The organization typically offers its programs in person, but it is prepared to deliver classroom training and mentor sessions online if necessary. Among the businesses started by EforAll participants, 75% are owned by women, 56% are owned by people of color, 54% are owned by immigrants, and 56% are owned by people who were previously unemployed. EforAll is accepting applications for this new Spanish-language accelerator, as well as its English accelerator program (EforAll), through Wednesday, May 20 at 5 p.m. Interested applicants can learn more and apply at www.eforall.org, where they will find information in both English and Spanish. To support its new Spanish-language programming, EforAll Holyoke has hired a dedicated EparaTodos program manager, Gabriella Candelario. Before joining EparaTodos Holyoke, she worked with the Springfield Public Schools as a program coordinator. She can be reached at [email protected]

Agenda

Zoom Series on Elder Law, Estate Planning

May 4, 11, 18: Adapting to COVID-19 restrictions, Attorney Karen Jackson of Jackson Law will teach a series of Holyoke Community College classes through Zoom, highlighting the latest developments in elder law and estate planning. An elder-law and estate-planning attorney, Jackson will present her six-hour course, called “Elder Law and Estate Planning: What You Need to Know,” on Zoom in three two-hour sessions on consecutive Mondays from 6 to 8 p.m. The cost is $99. To register, e-mail Valentyna Semyrog at [email protected], leave a message at (413) 552-2123, or visit www.hcc.edu/bce. Participants will be sent a link to join the class and can join using PCs, laptops, or smartphones. In the first session, Jackson will explain each document in the core estate plan. She will discuss the problems that can occur when proper documents are not prepared before a loss of mental capacity or physical health or before sudden loss of life. The second session will address four areas: trusts, the probate court process, Medicare hot topics, and options for community care and home care. Jackson will provide pertinent information and details about each to assist attendees in their planning now. In the third and final session, Jackson will introduce the various Medicaid programs that provide long-term skilled nursing-home care in Massachusetts and the financial assistance associated with each. While participants may choose to attend any or all of the sessions, they must still pay the full course cost of $99.

Difference Makers

Sept. 10: BusinessWest has moved its 12th annual Difference Makers event, originally scheduled for March 19, to Sept. 10 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. The class of 2020 was profiled in the Feb. 3 issue of BusinessWest and at businesswest.com. Tickets cost $75. To reserve a spot, e-mail [email protected] or visit businesswest.com. Event sponsors include Burkhart Pizzanelli, Mercy Medical Center/Trinity Health Of New England, Royal, P.C., and TommyCar Auto Group, while the Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament, MHA, and United Way of Pioneer Valley are partners.

Elms College Executive Leadership Breakfast

Sept. 22: Elms College has rescheduled its third annual Executive Leadership Breakfast due to state-mandated caution regarding large crowds and coronavirus. U.S. Rep. Richard Neal is still slated to be the keynote speaker for the event, which was originally scheduled for April 9. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, the college will announce more details as necessary. This annual event features talks by the region’s leaders on topics of relevance that impact all sectors of business and the economy in Western Mass. Speakers at past events have included Dennis Duquette, head of Community Responsibility at MassMutual and president of the MassMutual Foundation, and Regina Noonan Hitchery, retired vice president of Human Resources at Alcoa.

Company Notebook

Country Bank Donates $50,000 to First Responder Recovery Home

LUDLOW — To help the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department successfully operate the First Responder Recovery Home for COVID-19-diagnosed first responders, Country Bank announced it will contribute $50,000 to the efforts. The contribution from the Ware-based financial institution comes with the aim of inspiring other similar organizations to do what they can to assist the department’s effort to help the people who typically help others. The donation, which brings the overall community contributions above $87,000, will help ensure that every COVID-19-positive first responder who comes to stay at the facility has the food and comforts necessary for recovery. The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department opened the First Responder Recovery Home this week to fill an unmet need in the Commonwealth of providing a safe haven for our doctors, nurses, EMTs, police, firefighters, and corrections professionals who are diagnosed with COVID-19, but can’t safely go home to recover without jeopardizing the health of a vulnerable family member. Located at the department’s Pre-Release Center on its campus in Ludlow, the refuge is provided free of charge, thanks to the department’s community supporters and partners. Cocchi and staff started accepting guests this week, with 84 single-occupancy rooms available. Anyone coming to stay must be healthy enough to care for themselves; however, a pool of voluntary medical professionals from the community, led by Ludlow physician Dr. Shaukat Matin, will be making rounds, and if someone needs more comprehensive medical care, the Sheriff’s Department will help coordinate transportation. Any doctor, nurse, police, firefighter, EMT, correctional professional, or military member can call (413) 858-0801 or (413) 858-0819 to request a room or ask questions. The facility needs the person’s full name, gender, and expected length of stay, among other information, and all correspondence will be kept confidential. Community partners include Country Bank, Anthony Ravosa and the 91 Supper Club, Charlie D’Amour and Guy McFarlane of Big Y Foods, Bob Bolduc and Pride Stores, Cesar Ruiz Jr. and Golden Years Home Care, Jim Brennan on behalf of the Edward J. Brennan Jr. Family Foundation, Anthony Cignoli of A.L. Cignoli Co., Jeff Polep of J. Polep Distribution Services, Jay Caron of Bee-Line Corp., Larry Katz of Arnold’s Meats, Andy Yee and Peter Picknelly, and Matin. Anyone wishing to contribute to the First Responder Recovery Home initiative can send tax-deductible donations to Criminal Justice Organization, 627 Randall Road, Ludlow, MA 01056, and write “First Responder Recovery Home” on the memo line.

Ohana School of Performing Arts Looks to Community for Support

CHICOPEE — The future of small businesses hangs in the balance due to the coronavirus pandemic, and despite uncertainty and disruption, one local dance studio stands firm in its mission: to spread peace and positivity through performance. Ohana School of Performing Arts, located at 41 Sheridan St. in Chicopee, had to make significant changes to its business model as social-distancing guidelines and safety initiatives were put into place. The studio transitioned to online classes and continues to support families with an interactive Facebook group for dancers and their families, where instructors share craft ideas, new dance moves, story time, and messages of hope and joy. “We are bringing 50 virtual classes to our studio family each week,” said Ashley Kohl, owner and creative director. She explained that teachers are recording classes from their own homes to ensure that the dancers are staying engaged and active. In addition to moving to virtual programming, Ohana also shifted tuition terms for the studio — pay what you can, if you can. Due to the stay-at-home advisory, which Gov. Charlie Baker has implemented until further notice, it is likely that Ohana will not be hosting its June performance, which is the studio’s only for-profit recital of the year. The funds from this performance are typically used to cover overhead costs in the summer months. In addition to the annual performance, Ohana hosts two charity performances as fundraisers for local nonprofits. To date, Ohana has donated more than $30,000 to various organizations, including Make-A-Wish Foundation Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Willpower Foundation, Miracle League of Western Massachusetts, We Love Riley Fan Club, Arik(q)ue, in addition to Ohana’s nonprofit, One Ohana Inc., that provides scholarships to dancers across the Pioneer Valley. The impact of lost revenue comes at a particularly challenging time, as the studio was forced to relocate last year, and the business had to secure significant loan funding. Without the consistent tuition and performance revenue, Kohl fears she may have to close Ohana’s doors. With that in mind, two of Kohl’s close friends, Danielle Barone and Tanyelle Duchesne, organized a fundraiser with a goal of $20,000. For more information on how to support Ohana School of Performing Arts, visit gofundme.com/we-are-ohana or ohanaperformingarts.com.

TommyCar Auto Group Donates $10,000 to Support Health Workers

NORTHAMPTON — TommyCar Auto Group — consisting of Country Hyundai, Country Nissan, Genesis of Northampton, Northampton Volkswagen, and Volvo Cars Pioneer Valley — announced it has donated a total of $10,000 to local healthcare workers through its “Donate to Feed” and “Donate to Protect” initiatives. With the COVID-19 pandemic taking a toll on the doctors, nurses, and frontline medical workers at local hospitals, TommyCar Auto Group launched a two-part campaign to help support these local heroes. Members of the TommyCard Rewards loyalty program were able to donate up to 50 points to help the cause, making it easy to support the efforts without having to leave the safety of home to make an in-person donation. The points were then matched in dollars by TommyCar Auto Group. By early April, $5,000 was raised to provide meals to the Emergency Department staff at Baystate Medical Center. As of April 10, another $5,000 was donated to Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s COVID-19 Response Fund, which is used to purchase needed equipment such as N95 masks, gowns, gloves, and more. To learn more and follow the “Donate to Feed” and “Donate to Protect” campaigns, visit the Country Hyundai, Country Nissan, Genesis of Northampton, Northampton Volkswagen, and Volvo Cars of Pioneer Valley Facebook pages.

Holyoke Company Tools Up to Manufacture Medical Face Shields

HOLYOKE — Walter Drake Inc., a Holyoke manufacturing company, has responded to the urgent need for medical face shields by healthcare systems. In a matter of days, workers have designed, prototyped, built tooling for, and manufactured a medical face shield of the type that is in desperate demand by hospitals, nursing facilities, and other essential workers during the COVID-19 outbreak. Joseph Feigen, company president, announced that the face shield is called ‘Corona Shield’ for the time being, but will be renamed for permanent use in the healthcare field after the current pandemic ends. Walter Drake staff is now contacting dozens of hospitals around the country to deliver this badly needed personal protective equipment and to help ensure employment opportunities during this extended Massachusetts business shutdown. Established in 1962, Walter Drake Inc. primarily manufactures custom thermoformed packaging in the form of clamshells, trays, and blisters for medical, electronic, consumer, and industrial packaging applications.

MGM Springfield Donates Sleeping Cots, Outdoor Heaters

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield announced a donation of 160 portable sleeping cots and 16 outdoor heaters to Mercy Medical Center and the city of Springfield. A portion of the cots will provide much-needed overflow support for the hospital, while the other portion of cots and the outdoor heaters will assist the city’s work to help the homeless population amid the COVID-19 crisis. “We are a strong community, but this is a challenging time, and MGM Springfield will continue to do what we can to support those impacted and those on the front line,” said Chris Kelley, president and chief operating officer of MGM Springfield. Added Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, “I want to thank MGM President and COO Chris Kelley and his MGM team for stepping up in support of our city’s ongoing and continued efforts in responding to this coronavirus situation. These much-needed items will go a long way in assisting our city’s coronavirus response.” Deborah Bitsoli, president of Mercy Medical Center and its affiliates, added that “we are grateful to MGM Springfield for the generous donation of cots for use during the pandemic. This is another example of the local area’s remarkable community partnerships that assist our efforts to care for patients during this difficult time.”

UMass Amherst Food Scientist Helps Unravel COVID-19 Mysteries

AMHERST — With the rapid onset of smell and taste loss emerging as symptoms of COVID-19, scientists around the world — including a sensory expert at UMass Amherst — have united to investigate the connection between the chemical senses and the novel coronavirus. The wave of reports from patients and clinicians about anosmia, or smell loss, inspired the creation of the Global Consortium of Chemosensory Researchers. Alissa Nolden, UMass Amherst assistant professor of Food Science, is among the 500 clinicians, neurobiologists, data and cognitive scientists, sensory researchers, and technicians from 38 countries gathering data in a worldwide survey to unravel how the virus is transmitted and how to prevent its spread. Nolden was invited by a colleague at the National Institutes of Health to help develop strategies around measuring the sensory-related symptoms of the coronavirus. “Smell and/or taste loss may be an early indicator of COVID-19, as individuals appear to report loss of smell or taste prior to other symptoms,” she said. “We also want to better understand the mechanism behind taste and smell loss as a result of this virus.” Nolden noted that some people with COVID-19 who experience sensory losses may not have any other coronavirus symptoms. The researchers hope to learn more about this from the survey, since people with sensory symptoms alone are not likely to qualify for a COVID-19 test. “This has been a tremendous effort from collaborators from around the globe to gain a better understanding of the negative impact of COVID-19 on loss of taste and smell,” she said. “We hope to learn a lot about these symptoms and believe it will have a great impact on our understanding of the virus.”

Log Cabin, Delaney House Launch ‘Feed a Local Hero/Someone in Need’

HOLYOKE — Many people and organizations are looking for ways to help others during this trying time. In that spirit, the Delaney House and Log Cabin have created the “Feed a Local Hero/Someone in Need” meal-donation program. People can purchase meals at a discounted rate, which will then be distributed to local businesses with essential employees or community members struggling to gain access to fresh food during this difficult time. Some of the organizations that will receive these donations are Baystate Health System, Providence Ministries (Loreto House), Amherst Survival Center, Mercy Medical Center, Springfield first responders, Holyoke first responders, and many others. To donate, visit www.delaneyhouse.com/feedalocalhero.

MassHire Holyoke Career Center Continues to Offer Services Remotely

HOLYOKE — The MassHire Holyoke Career Center is letting the public known it is open for business remotely for new and current customers and members of the career center. Individuals can visit www.masshireholyoke.org to access information and staff contact numbers for career-counseling and job-search services. Staff members are available to answer questions and provide support such as résumé review and career counseling. These services are available in English and Spanish. Job postings are also available on the website. People with questions about job-seeker services can call (413) 532-4900 and leave a message, and a staff member will be in contact as soon as possible. People who need to file an unemployment claim can call (877) 626-6800 or visit www.mass.gov/how-to/apply-for-unemployment-benefits. Businesses can call (413) 654-1650, and a business service representative will be in touch.

Company Notebook

Community Foundation Grants $700,000 Through COVID-19 Response Fund

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) announced the release of its first grants, totaling $700,000, to community organizations and nonprofits from its recently-established COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley. The fund has raised $2,480,000 from local philanthropic and business organizations and over 50 individuals. The first round of funding to support local response to the crisis includes $190,000 to distribute food through the region’s system of food pantries; $120,000 to address the needs of vulnerable elders, including home-delivered meals; $120,000 to provide critical health services and outreach through the Valley’s federally designated Community Health Centers; $150,000 to provide shelter for those without homes and those impacted by domestic violence; and $120,000 to provide flexible supports to the region’s lowest-income families and individuals. Organizations receiving funding include Caring Health Center, Catholic Charities Agency – Diocese of Springfield, Center for Human Development, Community Action Pioneer Valley, Community Health Center of Franklin County, Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Friends of the Homeless (Clinical & Support Options), Greater Springfield Senior Services, Highland Valley Elder Services, Hilltown Community Health Center, Holyoke Health Center, LifePath, New England Learning Center for Women in Transition, Safe Passage, ServiceNet, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Springfield Rescue Mission, Valley Opportunity Council, WestMass ElderCare, Womanshelter Companeras, and YWCA of Western Massachusetts. More grants are expected to be announced and released to respond to emerging needs. In subsequent phases, grants will be made to address needs of nonprofit organizations that have been financially impacted by the crisis. The Community Foundation welcomes additional donations to the COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley. Donate online at communityfoundation.org/coronavirus-donations.

Fire Investigation Transfer Program Launched at STCC

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) has a hot new program. Starting this fall, the college will offer a new option in the Fire Protection and Safety Technology department: fire investigation transfer. Students who choose this option will study fire behavior, fire operations, prevention, investigations, and criminal law through courses in fire science and criminal justice. Fire investigators often work for local, state, and federal agencies, but also pursue opportunities in the private sector. The program is offered in the evening only, which will give students who work more flexibility. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for fire inspectors and investigators are expected to grow by 8% between 2018 and 2028. The median pay in 2018 was $60,200. Students who successfully complete the two-year program will receive an associate of science degree in fire protection and safety technology. To learn more about the program and to apply for the fall, visit stcc.edu/explore/programs/fitr.as. Individuals with questions may contact Tenczar at [email protected] or call (413) 755-4596.

HCC President Pledges $10,000 to ‘Together HCC’ Campaign

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) President Christina Royal has issued a personal $10,000 challenge gift toward a new HCC campaign that is as much about building moral support in a time of great uncertainty as it is about raising money for students experiencing financial distress. As part of the HCC Foundation’s “Together HCC — A Campaign for Caring,” students, staff, faculty, alumni, relatives, and friends are being asked to use the hashtag #TogetherHCC to share stories and images on social media that show the strength of the college community in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Royal’s $10,000 challenge is not just a financial one. Instead, the goal is to gather 1,000 contributions of any kind toward the #TogetherHCC campaign. That includes monetary donations as well as social-media posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well as e-mail submissions that describe an inspirational tale or messages of encouragement relating to the ongoing pandemic. Besides scholarships, the HCC Foundation manages several funds that directly support students facing financial emergencies as well as those experiencing food and housing insecurity. These include the President’s Student Emergency Fund, which was established by Royal, and another that supports HCC’s Thrive Student Resource Center, which manages the HCC Food Pantry.

Northampton Survival Center Updates Public on Services

NORTHAMPTON — While concern for staff, client, and volunteer health during the COVID-19 pandemic recently forced Northampton Survival Center to temporarily stop client visits to pick up food, the center anticipates resuming modified operations as soon as possible. Even though the building is closed, however, new community partnerships and initiatives have sprung into action. The center has teamed up with Community Action Pioneer Valley to begin distributing food out of Jackson Street School, a nearby location with ample, circular parking and cafeteria and refrigeration capabilities. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, food will be delivered by the Survival Center to the school, where a team of trained personnel will be able to create pre-bagged packages of nutritious food while maintaining safe distancing and other health precautions. On those same afternoons, bags will be carted outdoors under a tent, for quick drive-up intake and food transfer to clients safely in their cars. Another initiative between the Northampton Survival Center and Grow Food Northampton delivers fresh produce and groceries every Tuesday to high-need sites including Hampshire Heights, Florence Heights, Meadowbrook, and the Lumber Yard on Pleasant Street. Food distribution at all four sites will work in tandem with the Northampton public-school system and Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School’s new meal-delivery program for children, in order to amplify each other’s efforts to keep children and their entire families fed. Shelf-stable groceries will be paired with fresh produce purchased directly from local farms, as well as produce and other goods purchased from distributors via River Valley Co-op. To serve clients in the hilltowns, food is being brought from the Hilltown Pantry and Northampton Survival Center to the various Councils on Aging that serve the region. COAs in Chesterfield, Worthington, and Goshen have already begun distributing this food from their sites, and further outreach is being coordinated with the Hilltown Community Health Center and the Hilltown Community Development Corp. The center is exploring using a school classroom in Worthington as a mini-pantry, and fresh produce has been shared with the Maples senior housing in Worthington. Eggs from Northampton Survival Center have been shared with the MANNA hot meal program, and fresh produce and retail donations of bread and other items usually reserved for the center are now being shared with other food pantries in the area, via the center’s partners at the Food Bank.

Monson Savings Bank Donates $25,000 to Baystate Health’s Greatest Needs Fund

MONSON — Baystate Health has just completed construction of a rapid-response triage area outside of the Baystate Medical Center Emergency Department, allowing the hospital to better protect patients and medical staff from exposure to the virus as patients are being screened and tested. This new triage area is just one of the many large, unplanned expenses this health emergency has created. Additionally, the exploding demand for personal protection equipment for staff and myriad other needs to fight this outbreak are stretching resources and finances to the limit. Monson Savings Bank has donated $25,000 to Baystate’s Greatest Needs Fund. This gift will directly support resources needed at Baystate Health as it continues to address and prepare for the care the community needs during this worldwide pandemic.

UMassFive College Credit Union Offers Financial Resources, Support

HADLEY — As a local nonprofit financial cooperative, UMassFive College Federal Credit Union (UMassFive) is known for playing an active role in supporting and educating members and local communities. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UMassFive has launched a number of initiatives to continue supporting its membership and people in the local community. For example, UMassFive has joined forces with Log Rolling Catering to donate 350 meals to individuals and families in need, as well as those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. The Amherst Survival Center received 150 prepared meals for distribution to those in need, and another 200 meals went to the ER staff at both Mercy Medical Center in Springfield and UMass Medical Center in Worcester. In addition, UMassFive has pledged $1,000 to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and donated another $1,000 to the local farming nonprofit Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, which will use the funds as part of its campaign to raise $50,000 for emergency loans to local farms. Credit-union members can also participate by making charitable donations in support of their local community through the UMassFive Buzz Points program, including options benefiting the Food Bank and the Amherst Survival Center. UMassFive is committed to answering questions and providing financial guidance to its members throughout this ongoing time of economic uncertainty. Members are encouraged to reach out for one-on-one phone consultations with credit union staff to better understand what options are available to them at this time. For instance, UMassFive is offering loan-payment deferral for up to three months on all qualified consumer loans. Members can visit www.umassfive.coop/emergency-relief to learn which loans qualify and to submit their emergency-relief payment-deferral requests through an easy-to-fill-out web form. As a way to make things a little easier for qualified borrowers who decide to take on some short-term debt to address their current needs, UMassFive has temporarily lowered the rate of all new personal loans to 5.99% APR for amounts of $2,000 or less. New and existing members can apply for this loan online at www.umassfive.coop/personalloan. After signing up (for new users) or logging in, applicants should select ‘fixed-term loan,’ then ‘loan special,’ and continue filling out the form until fully submitted. The credit union strongly encourages seeking alternative options before taking on additional debt.

Country Bank Donates $250,000 to Four Hospitals

WARE — Country Bank announced it has donated $250,000 to four local hospitals to help assist with the work they are doing for patients as they fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The hospitals receiving donations include Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Harrington Hospital in Southbridge, UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, and Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester. Paul Scully, president and CEO at Country Bank, noted that “these are challenging and ever-evolving times as we face uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. As a community partner, we care deeply about our communities, and we wanted to support our local hospitals to help ease their financial burden as they continue to offer exceptional care to our friends and neighbors in the region.”

Providence Ministries Services Continue Through Pandemic

HOLYOKE — Providence Ministries will continue to offer essential support services to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement, Executive Director Shannon Rudder shared precautions being made to ensure continuity of services while protecting program participants. Effective immediately, the following program shifts will occur: Kate’s Community Kitchen will provide warm, nutritious takeout meals; dining-room services will be suspended until further notice. Margaret’s Pantry will continue to welcome those in need of supplemental groceries to enjoy its community services. This includes both monthly guests along with anyone impacted by loss of work or simply realizing greater need at this time. Make an appointment by calling Brenda at (413) 536-9109, ext. 119. St. Jude’s Clothing Center will be closed until further notice to contain exposure, while the foodWorks culinary-training program will suspend current classes until further notice; the April 1 graduation will be rescheduled. Providence is taking every precaution to ensure its single-room-occupancy recovery housing spaces maintain cleanliness and overall health. It is difficult to ensure a true quarantine due to shared spaces, such as bathrooms and kitchens. At Loreto House, residents will suspend weekend passes and all planned workshops, no general public will be allowed entrance, a daily temperature check has been instituted, and any resident presenting symptoms and fever will be sent to the hospital or their primary-care provider. At both Broderick House and McCleary Manor, no outside visitors or overnight guests are permitted. No new residents will be admitted to any of these houses during this time. Each home has adequate cleaning products and hand soaps. Volunteers are asked to exercise caution and use their best judgement to continue in their service.

Girls Inc. Receives Grants from Baystate Health, Women Empowered

HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley received a community-benefits discretionary grant of $5,000 from Baystate Health to Girls Inc. of the Valley’s “Informed and In Charge” program, which is designed to teach healthy sexuality. Through “Informed and In Charge,” girls acquire the knowledge and skills for taking charge of and making informed decisions about their sexual health. Exploring values, practicing responses in different situations, and thinking about their futures helps girls identify ways and reasons to avoid early pregnancy and prevent sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Meanwhile, Women Empowered, a group that strives to promote body positivity and acceptance for both adult women and future generations of girls, has donated $2,500 in proceeds of its Women Empowered calendar sales to Girls Inc. of the Valley. The receipt of this gift will support Girls Inc. of the Valley’s current research-based program offerings designed to empower girls, and will provide a boost in its annual fundraising efforts. The Women Empowered calendar features a diverse group of everyday women who have embraced their uniqueness, have overcome physical and mental obstacles, celebrate their bodies, and want to share their story to inspire others. This calendar provides the chance to send a message of body positivity and acceptance in order to teach other women and future generations to embrace the totality of who they are, and use their gifts, their beauty, and their stories to change the world. Everyone involved with the production of the calendar and all sponsors are women-owned businesses.

Amherst Area Tip Jar Launched

AMHERST — The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce and the Amherst Business Improvement District (BID) have launched the Amherst Area Tip Jar. Many locals would regularly be patronizing their favorite restaurants, bars, salons, coffeehouses, and other businesses that have been ordered closed or have shifted to take-out only, depending on the type of business, due to the COVID-19 crisis and related health and safety restrictions. The Tip Jar, first established in Pittsburgh, allows people to support local service industry staff and businesses. It allows them to send a ‘tip’ to their favorite business, which will share it with their staff — bartenders, servers, kitchen staff, stylists, aestheticians, mechanics, etc. The Amherst Area Tip Jar offers an option for these businesses and individuals to post their Venmo or PayPal information so that customers, family members, neighbors, and community members, near and far, can continue to support them using this open-source concept — a way to maximize social distancing while supporting these workers and small businesses. E-mail Claudia Pazmany, the chamber’s executive director, at [email protected] or Gould at [email protected]m with any inquiries.

Big Y Announces Support for Five Food Banks

SPRINGFIELD — On March 16, Big Y World Class Markets donated $125,000 to three Massachusetts food banks and two in Connecticut in order to help them respond to the challenges they face in helping to feed others during these challenging times. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, the Greater Boston Food Bank, the Worcester County Food Bank, Foodshare, and the Connecticut Food Bank will each receive an immediate donation of $25,000. All Big Y stores also now have collection boxes to allow customers to make food donations for local pantries and shelters. As part of its recent 10th annual Sack Hunger/Care to Share program, Big Y also provided more than $11.5 million in food to area food banks, which amounts to a total of 5.7 million meals to help those in need throughout the region. In addition to Sack Hunger, it donates healthy food to these food banks six days a week throughout the year. Two-thirds of those 5.7 million meals include donations of meat and fresh produce, while bakery, non-perishable grocery items, frozen food, and dairy products account for the rest. In fact, these almost-daily donations have become a routine part of Big Y’s operations. These food banks depend upon this steady flow of food to feed those in need. Big Y also encourages support in any amount for area food banks right now. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts estimates that every dollar donated will provide four meals for those in need. Visit foodbankwma.org for more information. Additionally, Big Y donated $50,000 to the COVID-19 Response Fund hosted by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. The fund will provide flexible resources to Pioneer Valley nonprofit organizations serving populations most impacted by the crisis, such as the elderly, those without stable housing, families needing food, and those with particular health vulnerabilities.

Company Notebook

Community Foundation Gives $341,000 Through Innovation Grant Program

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts’ (CFWM) Innovation Grant Program has awarded a total of $341,000 to three change-making nonprofit organizations to continue creating innovative solutions around critical issues facing the region. CFWM’s Innovation Grant Program was launched in 2016 to encourage nonprofits to develop and execute novel ideas in partnership with other entities, as well as allow organizations to construct inventive solutions with measurable impact. In January 2018, CFWM awarded first-year funding to Five Colleges Inc., the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, and Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity to implement innovative projects that were refined and tested during a planning period in 2017. Now entering their third year of funding, these grantees are seeing the tangible impact of their work. Twenty paraprofessionals of color are making their way toward receiving their licensure to become a full-fledged teachers, food-insecure patients are being identified and referred to healthy-food opportunities, and small homes have been built and are being occupied by first-time homebuyers. Five Colleges Inc. will continue to develop its “Paradigm Shift” initiative and bring in new partners. This initiative is focused on creating a more diverse teacher workforce in Western Mass. by helping para-educators of color overcome obstacles to obtaining licensure to become teachers in area schools. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts will spend its third year expanding and analyzing the impact of its Food Insecurity Screening and Referral Initiative that conducts and tracks food insecurity screening and social-service referrals at the Holyoke Health Center and its Chicopee location. Additionally, it will partner with WestMass ElderCare and Springfield Senior Services to address the food needs of patients who screen positive for food insecurity and have a specific medical condition. Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity will continue with a third year of its “Big Enough: the Small Home Revolution in Western Mass.” initiative, which aims to launch more individuals and families into the middle class by empowering them to become first-time owners of small, simple, affordable, energy-efficient homes.

MBK Donates $10,000 to MHA for Crisis-intervention Training

SPRINGFIELD — Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C., (MBK) recently made a $10,000 donation to the Mental Health Assoc. Inc. (MHA) to fund non-violent crisis-intervention training for MHA’s direct-care staff. “To train in non-violent crisis intervention is an important professional-development opportunity for MHA staff,” said Cheryl Fasano, president and CEO of MHA Inc. “MHA does not use physical restraint in any form, so our staff members need skills to safely de-escalate and manage challenging behaviors in a non-violent manner. Our training curriculum from the Crisis Prevention Institute goes further by also helping better equip our staff to prevent difficult situations from escalating.” The Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) is an international training organization committed to best practices and safe behavior-management methods that focus on prevention. Since 1980, more than 10 million professionals around the world have participated in CPI training programs.

HCC Extends Scholarship Application Deadline

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) has extended by two weeks the deadline to apply for scholarships for the 2020-21 academic year. The new application deadline is Wednesday, April 8. Students must be currently enrolled at HCC or have been accepted for the upcoming academic year to be eligible for scholarships, which are awarded through the HCC Foundation, HCC’s nonprofit fundraising corporation. Awards totaling more than $200,000 are available for incoming, continuing, and transferring HCC students. Applicants need only to fill out a single online form to be automatically matched with the scholarships they are most qualified to receive. There are scholarships for new students, current students and students transferring to other institutions, scholarships based on financial need, scholarships for students in specific majors, scholarships for residents of certain communities, and scholarships that recognize academic achievement. For the 2019-20 academic year, the HCC Foundation awarded $223,000 in scholarships to 231 students. To begin the application process, visit www.hcc.edu/scholarships. Questions should be directed to the HCC Foundation office at (413) 552-2182 or Donahue 170 on the HCC campus, 303 Homestead Ave.

PTK Honor Society Presents ACC with Awards During Virtual Ceremony

ENFIELD, Conn. — Asnuntuck Community College’s Alpha Lambda Zeta Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society was recognized as being the Most Distinguished Chapter for the New England Region during a virtual awards ceremony held last weekend. The chapter and its members were awarded other honors during its first-ever virtual ceremony. These awards included Distinguished College Project Award and Distinguished Honors in Action Project Award. The chapter elected to do its Honors in Action project within a Politics of Identity theme. Working with various departments at the college, as well as outside agencies, including the Jordan Porco Foundation, the students concentrated on the issue of mental-health awareness. They also established an interactive exhibit on mental-health issues at Asnuntuck, with a digitized version, titled “Art|Mind,” available for those who could not make it to campus. The college project focused on getting information into the hands of students through campus brochures and during the college’s orientation. Asnuntuck student Victoria Orifice was awarded first-place honors for being the Distinguished Chapter Officer.

Beta Gamma Sigma at WNEU Earns Highest Chapter Recognition

SPRINGFIELD — For the third consecutive year, the Beta Gamma Sigma (BGS) Chapter at Western New England University earned the “highest honors” designation for its campus engagement and programming for the 2018-19 academic year. According to Beta Gamma Sigma CEO Chris Carosella, earning highest honors “is indicative of a campus where academic excellence is highly valued and where the faculty and chapter leaders work diligently to enhance Beta Gamma Sigma’s stature on campus.” One indicator of this engagement is participation at the annual Global Leadership Summit (GLS), which chapter President Tessa Wood and Secretary Kathryn Wells attended last year. The GLS enables delegates to participate in professional-development workshops and share best practices with student leaders from other BGS chapters worldwide.

Junior Achievement of Western Mass. Receives Five Star Award

SPRINGFIELD — Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts has been awarded one of Junior Achievement USA’s highest honors: the Five Star Award. The purpose of the award is to recognize staff and boards of JA areas that meet Junior Achievement’s national standards in operational efficiency and through strong representation of the JA brand. Recipients must demonstrate growth in student impact and superior fiscal performance. Achievement against these criteria is certified through JA USA and audited financial statements. Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts, which serves more than 13,000 students throughout Western Mass. and Vermont, will be presented with the award in July at Junior Achievement USA’s National Leadership Conference in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Robinson Donovan Moves to Expanded Northampton Location

NORTHAMPTON — Robinson Donovan, P.C., a full-service law firm, announced it has moved from its previous Northampton office to a more expansive location at 351 Pleasant St. The firm’s phone number, (413) 732-2301, remains the same. “We wanted to make things as convenient as possible for our growing list of clients in Hampshire County,” Partner Michael Simolo said. “We can now meet with them more comfortably. The response from clients has been very positive.” Partner Jeffrey Trapani, added that “our new office in Northampton has plenty of meeting space, free parking, and easier access. Quite a few of our attorneys live in Hampshire County, so having an expanded office in Northampton makes sense for us operationally as well and helps us better serve our clients throughout the Pioneer Valley.”

Behavioral Health Network Receives $15,000 Grant from Country Bank

SPRINGFIELD — Behavioral Health Network Inc. (BHN) has been awarded a $15,000 grant from Country Bank, which will fund direct services for BHN’s domestic-violence programs in Ware. Country Bank’s grant to BHN will be used for innovative support and advocacy services for domestic-violence survivors, which includes partnering with Country Bank employees in offering the economic-freedom initiative known as Money School. BHN’s Money School program is an award-winning, trauma-informed financial-independence initiative designed to create long-term safety and economic security for survivors of domestic violence. The grant will also be used to provide prevention-education work in local schools, and for interruption and prevention services for perpetrators of domestic violence.

Springfield WORKS Programs to Benefit from State Grant

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield WORKS leads local employers, educators, community leaders, and job seekers in developing innovative solutions to meet the economic needs of area residents and local businesses. A founding member in the Springfield WORKS collaboration, Springfield Partners for Community Action, recently received a second $50,000 award from the Baker-Polito Community Services Block Grant Special Projects Fund to support Springfield WORKS financial-wellness strategies. This award comes on the heels of a recent $100,000 Baker-Polito Urban Agenda Grant to Springfield WORKS and the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts. The funds will enable families to achieve economic stability as they navigate workforce-development training into a career pathway.

Company Notebook

Bacon Wilson to Donate $25,000 for Firm’s 125th Anniversary

SPRINGFIELD — Bacon Wilson announced that, in honor of its 125th anniversary year, the firm will donate $25,000 to various community organizations throughout the Pioneer Valley. Bacon Wilson will make five contributions of $1,250 for each quarter of 2020. After gathering suggestions from members of the firm, first-quarter contributions of $1,250 were awarded to:

• Michael J. Dias Foundation, which provides aid and education for individuals and families on substance abuse, and help for those battling the disease of addiction;

• All Out Adventures, which promotes health, community, and independence for people with disabilities, seniors, veterans, and their families and friends through outdoor recreation;

• Amherst Survival Center, which connects people to food, clothing, healthcare, wellness, and community, primarily through volunteer efforts;

• Our Community Table: Westfield Soup Kitchen, a 100% volunteer organization dependent upon donations to provide a clean and safe environment to serve those in need; and

• Treehouse Foundation, an intergenerational community neighborhood where adoptive families and their children, older youth, and elders invest in one another’s health, dreams, and futures.

Bacon Wilson will announce recipients for the firm’s remaining quarterly giving in June, September, and December.

Eversource Energy to Purchase Columbia Gas of Massachusetts

BOSTON — Eversource Energy announced it has reached an agreement to purchase the Massachusetts natural-gas assets of Columbia Gas for $1.1 billion from NiSource. The acquisition will bring Columbia Gas operations in Massachusetts under local ownership by the largest energy company in New England. Columbia Gas currently serves 330,000 natural-gas customers in more than 60 communities in Massachusetts. Eversource has 300,000 natural-gas customers and 1.5 million electric customers in 51 communities across the Commonwealth. Many communities that Columbia Gas serves with natural gas already receive electric service from Eversource. Under the asset-purchase agreement, liabilities related to the September 2018 gas distribution incidents in the Merrimack Valley will remain the responsibility of Columbia Gas’s current parent company, NiSource. Eversource plans to finance the transaction with a balance of new equity and debt that maintains its credit profile. The parties expect to close the transaction by the end of the third quarter 2020.

Isenberg Again Ranks First for MBA Online Education

AMHERST — For the fourth year in a row, the online MBA offered by the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst topped the rankings of U.S. programs — and came out number three in the world — in the Financial Times survey. Isenberg has offered an AACSB-accredited MBA degree program entirely online since 2001, making it one of the most well-established and robust online degrees in the country. Currently, more than 1,100 students are enrolled in the program. In addition to its overall position in the 2020 Financial Times ranking, the Isenberg online MBA also stood out in a number of data areas, based on information collected by the publication from members of the 2016 graduating class. It ranked first in the world for salary increase, with alumni reporting that they earn 46% more now than they did when they graduated from the Isenberg MBA program; second in the U.S. for average current salary ($168,046); and first in the U.S. for value.

American International College Named To Military Friendly Schools List

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has again been named a Military Friendly School. VIQTORY, a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business that connects the military community to civilian employment and educational and entrepreneurial opportunities, has released the 2020-21 Military Friendly​​ Schools list, providing a comprehensive guide for veterans and their families using data sources from federal agencies, veteran students, and proprietary survey information from participating organizations in order to help them select the best college, university, or trade school to receive the education and training needed to pursue a civilian career. Institutions earning the Military Friendly​ School designation are evaluated using both public data sources and responses from a proprietary survey completed by the school. This year, fewer than 800 schools nationwide earned this prestigious designation. Methodology and criteria were determined by VIQTORY with input from the Military Friendly​ ​Advisory Council of independent leaders in the higher-education and military-recruitment community. Final ratings were determined by combining the individual institution’s survey scores with the assessment of its ability to meet thresholds for student retention, graduation, job placement, loan repayment, persistence (degree advancement or transfer), and loan default rates for all students and, specifically, for student veterans.

Girls Inc. of the Valley Receives $500,000 Grant

HOLYOKE — Girls Inc. of the Valley announced plans for major expansion and the launch of its new campaign. The organization is in the early stages of an ambitious, comprehensive campaign, “Her Future, Our Future,” with three primary goals: to develop a permanent Girls Inc. home in downtown Holyoke; to expand school-based programming in Holyoke, Chicopee, and Springfield; and to extend the Eureka! STEM education program. To that end, it has received $500,000 in support from the Kendeda Fund, a private grantmaker based in Atlanta. This transformative gift will support the expansion of Girls Inc. of the Valley’s programs and create a stronger network that encourages girls to achieve. Girls Inc. of the Valley is launching this campaign to offer more girls fundamental support and research-based programming. These programs are designed to empower girls and present them with opportunities to navigate barriers they face in school and beyond.

Women’s Fund to Award $45,000 to Groups Addressing Sexual Violence

SPRINGFIELD — The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (WFWM) announced a spring grant cycle to fund organizations that are working to fight sexual violence in the Western Mass. region. Funding for this grant cycle is made possible by a grant the WFWM received from the Fund for the Me Too Movement and Allies (the Me Too Fund), housed at the New York Women’s Foundation. Joining the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, the Women’s Foundation of California, and the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota in this work, WFWM will carry out the Me Too Fund’s goal of ensuring ongoing philanthropic investments toward transforming the oppressive systems that produce structural inequalities of power that result in harassment and violence by making grants from this fund in and for the local community. Applications will be accepted from women- and girl-serving organizations in all four counties of Western Mass. through March 31. Projects funded by this grant from WFWM must focus on prevention and/or intervention of sexual violence and harassment. Visit mywomensfund.org for additional information or to apply.

GCAi Launches Videos for Peter Pan’s App Marketing and Perks Rewards Program

SPRINGFIELD — Riders on any Peter Pan bus right now will not only view a new app-marketing video but also a new Perks Rewards program video. In between the two marketing videos is a brief welcome message by company Chairman and CEO Peter Picknelly. Garvey Communication Associates Inc. (GCAi) produced the three videos, which are already being shown on all routes in the Northeast Corridor. Each of them was produced by award-winning video producer Darcy Young, one of the only female video producers in the market. The concepts and scripts were developed by GCAi founder John Garvey. The app and rewards videos will be disseminated through digital marketing campaigns in specific markets on the East Coast in the near future. These videos are the third in a series of passenger videos produced by GCAi that began when Peter Pan Bus Lines separated from Greyhound Bus Lines in 2017. The videos can be viewed at gcaionline.com/video.

Webber & Grinnell Acquires Roger Menard Insurance Agency

NORTHAMPTON — Webber & Grinnell Insurance announced the acquisition of Roger Menard Insurance Agency at 241 King St., Northampton. “Roger and I have been talking about this for a long time, and we are fortunate to be able to continue his legacy of great customer service to his clients,” said Webber and Grinnell President Bill Grinnell. “Our office is only a quarter-mile down the street, so it will be an easy adjustment for his clients. We also represent the same insurance carriers as Roger Menard Insurance, which will make the transition go very smoothly. Menard added that “Webber and Grinnell is the premier insurance agency in Northampton, and I know my clients will be treated very well. I’ve truly enjoyed this business and the relationships I have developed along the way. But after 36 years, it’s time to do something different. I will still be available to answer any questions during the transition.”

DAISA Enterprises to Facilitate Healthy Children and Families Event

SOUTH HADLEY — DAISA Enterprises, a food-systems and community health strategy firm based in South Hadley, was selected by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to design and facilitate a convening of Healthy Children and Families grantees for 2020. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), based in Princeton, N.J., is the largest philanthropic foundation in the U.S. focused solely on health, striving to advance policy, system, and environmental changes that create the conditions to foster families’ opportunities to promote healthy child development. The Healthy Children and Families convening will be a forum for sharing lessons and leveraging insights among grantees, partners, stakeholders, and RWJF staff around strategies to achieve this goal and prioritize health equity. More than 100 health leaders are expected to attend this event this spring or summer.

Health New England a Finalist in Healthiest Employers Program

SPRINGFIELD — Health New England has been recognized as one of the 2019 finalists of the Healthiest Employers of Massachusetts, a nationally recognized awards program powered by the Springbuk Health Intelligence Platform. Applicants to the Healthiest Employers awards program were evaluated across six key categories, representing a holistic view of employee well-being: culture and leadership commitment, foundational components, strategic planning, communication and marketing, programming and interventions, and reporting and analytics. All companies that applied to the awards program were ranked according to the proprietary Healthiest Employers Index, a 1-100 rubric for employee well-being programming. Ranked second in the 100- to 499-employee size category in Massachusetts, Health New England was honored for its commitment to employee health and corporate health programming. As an award finalist, Health New England has demonstrated a strong commitment to the health and well-being of its team members.

Bay Path Earns ‘A’ Grade for Early Reading Courses

LONGMEADOW — The National Council on Teacher Quality released its scores for the 2020 Teacher Prep Review, ranking Bay Path University’s Early Reading course content in undergraduate, traditional, elementary-education programs with an ‘A’ designation. Reading ability is a key predictor of future educational gains and life success, and more than one-third of American children are not able to read by the fourth grade, with black and Hispanic children being disproportionately affected. Successful reading instruction is essential to achieving educational equity, yet only seven programs in Massachusetts received an ‘A’ ranking. After reviewing course syllabi and required textbooks, programs were ranked based on the following criteria: the availability of explicit instruction on each of the five components of reading instruction — phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension strategies; support for instruction with high-quality textbooks that accurately detail established principles of scientifically based reading practices; and evidence that teacher candidates must demonstrate mastery through in-class assignments, tests, and field work.

Scout Curated Wears Supports Dress for Success

SPRINGFIELD — Scout Curated Wears started out as a local business and quickly turned into a nationwide sensation with its signature item, which converts from a wrap bracelet to a necklace. But the company is equally proud of its commitment to give back 10% of its net proceeds to support women’s organizations. Dress for Success Western Massachusetts is one of the nonprofits that benefits from the generosity of Scout Curated Wears and owner Lora Fischer-DeWitt. Women in the Greater Springfield community benefit from both a network of support and programs developed by Dress for Success. These programs, which are designed to be responsive to both women and employers, include the Foot in the Door workforce-readiness program; the Boutique, which provides women with professional attire for interviews and employment; the Margaret Fitzgerald One-on-One mentor program; and the Professional Women’s Group, designed to promote employment retention and career advancement. Fischer-DeWitt changes the lives of women who come through these programs by providing an annual contribution and by sponsoring Common Threads, an annual event celebrating of the accomplishments of women who have come through Dress for Success Western Massachusetts programs. This year’s event is scheduled for Thursday, April 16 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Springfield Sheraton.

Elms School of Nursing Ranks in Top 10 in State

CHICOPEE — The School of Nursing at Elms College ranks in the top 10 of “Best Nursing Schools in Massachusetts,” according to a recent ranking by registerednursing.org. To determine this year’s rankings, registerednursing.org researched the 40 nursing programs across the state and analyzed their students’ performance on the NCLEX-RN exam over the past five years. In 2019, Elms College nurses achieved a 97% pass rate on the exam, while the national pass rate was 91%. This is the third top-10 ranking for Elms College’s School of Nursing over the past year. It has been ranked in the top 10 of nursing schools in Massachusetts according to both nurse.org and niche.com.

Company Notebook

Bay Path University Names Sandra Doran Its Sixth President

Sandra Doran

LONGMEADOW — The Bay Path University board of trustees announced today that Sandra Doran has been selected by unanimous vote to become the sixth president of Bay Path effective June 30. She will succeed Carol Leary, who retires in June following her 25-year presidency of Bay Path. Doran’s appointment is the culmination of a comprehensive, 10-month, national search process. “Sandy Doran is a charismatic leader who cares deeply about women’s education and is passionate about access to education and student success,” said Jonathan Besse, board chair. “She has an impressive and broad background in a variety of complex organizations, all of which flourished greatly under her leadership.” Doran is currently president of Salem Academy and College in Winston-Salem, N.C. As president, she led an inclusive and aggressive strategic planning process that resulted in a transformation of the college as evidenced by unprecedented growth in enrollment and fundraising. “I am humbled by the trust the board has placed in me to continue the spirit of innovation here at Bay Path,” Doran said. “The visionary nature of President Leary is inspiring and unprecedented in higher education, and I look forward to working with the Bay Path faculty and staff to build on her legacy. Serving our students, and providing them with a superior learning experience, gives us all great joy. I look forward to engaging with all members of our community, students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, and our business and philanthropic partners.” Doran holds a juris doctor degree from the Syracuse University College of Law and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Southern Methodist University. Before serving at Salem, Doran was CEO at Castle Point Learning Systems (CPLS), a company that develops innovative teaching and learning technologies incorporating artificial intelligence and adaptive learning algorithms to provide better student outcomes in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Prior to her position at CPLS, she was president of the American College of Education in Indianapolis, where she grew the organization into the fifth-largest graduate school of education in the country, serving more than 5,000 adult and non-traditional students. Her professional experience also includes positions at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey as an entrepreneur-in-residence, as well as at the New England Board of Higher Education as national policy director. Early in her legal career, she transitioned into higher education, joining Lesley University in Cambridge in 2004 as chief of staff, vice president, and general counsel. Doran currently serves as chair of the board for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation and on the board of the Online Learning Consortium. She was named the Triad Business Journal’s Most Admired CEO, and Power Player of 2019.

AIC to Offer Graduate Program in Cannabis Science and Commerce

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) will offer a master of science program in cannabis science and commerce beginning in the fall of 2020, the first of its kind in this region. The 30-credit, hybrid graduate program is designed for individuals interested in a career in the cannabis industry and will provide students with an understanding of the science, business, and legal issues associated with the cannabis industry. The program offers education in the areas of basic science, including chemistry, horticulture, cultivation, uses, and delivery systems; business management, marketing, and operations; and federal and state laws and policies. According to a March 2020 jobs report issued by Leafly, the world’s largest cannabis website, over the past four years, legal cannabis has supported nearly a quarter of a million jobs. That equates to a 15% annual uptick in employment. For more information regarding the AIC’s master of science program in cannabis science and commerce, visit www.aic.edu/cannabis.

MGM Springfield Revenues Rebound in January

SPRINGFIELD — The Massachusetts Gaming Commission reported that gross gaming revenue (GGR) at MGM Springfield totaled $20.6 million in January, up from $18.9 million in December, which was its worst-ever full month. Meanwhile, the Encore Boston Harbor casino recorded $48.6 million in GGR in January, down from $54 million in December, while Plainridge Park Casino posted $11.1 million in January, an almost $900,000 increase from December and its first monthly uptick since last spring. MGM Springfield’s January GGR totaled included $14.9 million from slot machines and $5.7 million from from table games. The facility named a new president and chief operating officer following December’s poor numbers, replacing Michael Mathis with Chris Kelley.

Country Bank Donates More Than $900,000 in 2019

WARE — Country Bank reported its donations to area nonprofits totaled $905,049 last year. Throughout 2019, more than 500 organizations in the communities the bank serves received donations, including the Children’s Trust, Ludlow Community Center Boys and Girls Club, Ronald McDonald House, Habitat for Humanity, Project Bread, and the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, among many others. Recognizing the importance and overwhelming need to help organizations that address hunger, Country Bank provided monetary donations exceeding $100,000 to food programs throughout the region. The recipients of these funds included Friends of the Homeless, Springfield Rescue Mission, and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, as well as many local food pantries. In addition, Country Bank’s employee charitable giving program raised more than $30,000 in 2019 through events such as jeans days, bake sales, and raffles, and employees volunteered more than 1,000 hours of personal time at various events within the bank’s communities.

Bank of America Entrusts More Than $22 Million to Community Foundation

SPRINGFIELD — After collaborating with the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) for 29 years, the Bank of America in May transferred three trusts totaling more than $22 million to the Valley-wide grant funder. The move brings CFWM’s total earned assets from roughly $153 million to $175 million and bolsters its role as an enduring philanthropic leader in the Pioneer Valley. Founded in 1990, CFWM administers a charitable endowment consisting of more than 600 separately identified funds totaling approximately $175 million. Some of these charitable assets are unrestricted and used to meet emerging and changing needs in the region. Others support named nonprofit organizations or provide financial support to college-bound students. Still others are donor-advised, offering flexibility to donors in timing, amount, and beneficiary of their giving. Last year, CFWM awarded $7.3 million in grants to nonprofits and $2.2 million in scholarships and interest-free loans to more than 770 area students. The Bank of America funds will continue to support a wide variety of organizations for generations to come, from grassroots community food pantries to region-spanning arts programs — and will preserve the original donors’ wishes to support their communities in perpetuity. The three trusts transferred from the bank to the foundation are the Eugene A. Dexter Charitable Fund, established in 1944; the Nan and Matilda Heydt Fund, established in 1960; and the Valley Charitable Trust Fund, established in 1960. All three were originally created to support and serve charitable organizations and interests with a focus on Springfield and Hampden County.

Eversource Earns Award for Using Smart Technology to Reduce Peak Energy Usage

BOSTON — An Eversource program that pays customers to use less electricity during high-demand periods has received an award for Outstanding Achievement in Residential Program Design & Implementation by the Assoc. of Energy Services Professionals. The award recognizes the company’s ConnectedSolutions demand-response program, which leverages customer-owned devices, such as wireless thermostats, battery storage, and electric-vehicle chargers, to reduce electric use during peak periods, when the cost and greenhouse-gas emissions of electricity in New England are at their highest. More than 9,000 customers have enrolled in the volunteer demand-response program in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Customers allow their devices to automatically communicate with Eversource during regional peak energy periods, resulting in a short reduction of power or, in the case of batteries, a reduction of the stored energy. Residential customers with eligible connected wireless thermostats, battery storage, or electric-vehicle chargers can participate and earn incentives ranging from $20 to more than $1,000 a year. The energy company anticipates that, at full enrollment, the collective ability to call on these customers during high-demand periods could have the environmental equivalent effect of taking 20,000 homes off the grid.

EforAll Holyoke Seeks Mentors for Summer Business Accelerator

HOLYOKE — EforAll Holyoke is actively seeking both English- and Spanish-speaking volunteers to participate as mentors in the summer 2020 business accelerator program. Accelerator mentors come from a variety of backgrounds and use their business and leadership experience to guide new entrepreneurs through the process of turning their idea into a growing business. Mentors work in teams of three and are matched with an entrepreneur based on schedule availability and the desire to work together. The team meets as a group to help reaffirm topics and themes raised during classes, while also strategizing with the entrepreneur on how to reach their specific goals during the program. This is a high-touch, year-long commitment. Mentor teams have 90-minute, in-person meetings for three months and then meet once a month for the following nine months. Anyone interested can e-mail [email protected] for more information.

Company Notebook

Charter Oak Financial Merges with Two Firms

HOLYOKE — Charter Oak Financial, MassMutual Greater Long Island, and MassMutual Greater Hudson have combined. The expanded firm will operate as Charter Oak Financial and will be led by managing partners Brendan Naughton and Brad Somma. The consolidation is part of a strategic plan to extend Charter Oak’s reach and leverage highly skilled resources to create the scale and infrastructure needed to deliver an enhanced client experience. Charter Oak now includes 375 advisors and a team of more than 100 specialists and staff servicing clients from offices across Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. The combination also bolsters existing presence in the Chinatowns of Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. Naughton and Somma have been industry colleagues since 2001 and bring a combined 30 years of financial-services expertise to their leadership roles. Naughton joined Charter Oak in 2005 as a managing director for the firm’s Stamford office. He filled that role until 2009, when he was appointed managing partner. Somma was a managing director with Charter Oak from 2008 until 2012, when he was appointed managing partner of MassMutual Greater Long Island.

Big Y Donates $215,742 to Breast-cancer Groups

SPRINGFIELD — In order to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer, all Big Y supermarkets donated proceeds from their October initiative “Partners of Hope” to 29 breast-cancer treatment and support organizations throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut. During the month-long campaign, Big Y raised $215,742. The 29 recipients included eight organizations in Western Mass.: Protect our Breasts in Amherst; the Pink Way in Ludlow; Survivor Journeys in Longmeadow; Cancer Connection and Cooley Dickinson Hospital, both in Northampton; Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield; and Baystate Health Foundation/Rays of Hope and Mercy Medical Center, both in Springfield. Big Y donated a portion of the proceeds from both the Floral and Produce departments during October, and 5 cents for each Big Y, Top Care, Full Circle, Simply Done, Paws Happy Life, Pure Harmony, @Ease, Tippy Toes, and Culinary Tours brand products purchased between Oct. 4 and Oct. 10 (excluding random-weight items). The Big Y Butcher Shops also donated 10 cents from every pound of all-natural angus beef and Big Y Smart Chicken sold during the entire month of October. Big Y Pharmacy & Wellness Center donated $5 for every flu shot given. Every store promoted Partners of Hope pink ribbons for $1 for the month of October as a way of generating additional proceeds for local breast-cancer organizations throughout the two states. In addition, Big Y’s dietitian team, Carrie Taylor and Andrea Luttrell, devoted a portion of their fall newsletter to cancer prevention. Since 2007, Big Y has raised more than $2 million to support local breast-cancer initiatives.

The Starting Gate at GreatHorse Honored by WeddingWire

HAMPDEN — The Starting Gate at GreatHorse was announced a winner of the 2020 WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards, an accolade representing the top wedding professionals across the board in quality, service, responsiveness, and professionalism reviewed by couples on WeddingWire. For its 12th annual Couples’ Choice Awards, WeddingWire analyzed reviews across more than 20 service categories, from venues and caterers to florists and photographers, to find the most highly rated vendors of the year. These winners exhibit superior professionalism, responsiveness, service, and quality when interacting with the millions of consumers who turn to WeddingWire each month to help ease their wedding-planning process. Wedding professionals who win WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards are members of WeddingPro, the leading B2B wedding brand.

EANE Offers Study Classes for HR Certification Tests

AGAWAM — Perfect distance vision is commonly referred to as 20/20 vision. As a new year begins, the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE) wants to help those in the human resources (HR) field sharpen their visions for career growth. HR certifications from HRCI or SHRM indicate that an individual possesses a knowledge and understanding of what HR professionals at various levels are expected to know and do on the job. The certification exams require a combination of experience and preparation in order to be successful. EANE provides a proven study process for these exams. The national pass rates for the HRCI or SHRM certification tests is about 50%. That pass rate increases to nearly 90% for those who have studied with an EANE HR certification study group. EANE’s winter study group sessions begin in February. The $995 registration covers enrollment in the 10-week class that meets from 5 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, as well as all necessary study materials. Dinner is provided at the study classes, which are led by EANE’s certified HR professionals. Learn more about EANE’s study classes at www.eane.org/hr-certification-study.

Swift River Building New Pharmacy at Home Campus

CUMMINGTON — Swift River, a member of the Addiction Campuses treatment centers, announced the opening of a new pharmacy. The construction project began in 2019 and is expected to be completed this month. Swift River has teamed up with Keiter Builders Inc. based in Florence, and Kuhn Riddle Architects of Amherst to lead in the design and construction of a new, 1,690-square-foot addition. The addition is a B-use occupancy including a nurse’s station, patient-service portals, exam rooms, and a pharmacy for the storage and dispensing of narcotic addition-treatment substances. The project is regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency and meets relevant standards, including an alarm system, security cameras, motion and sound detectors, and limited key-access entry points.

GCC, Double Edge Theatre Announce Collaboration

GREENFIELD — This spring, Greenfield Community College (GCC) and Double Edge Theatre will embark on a formal collaboration to grow the role of visual and performing arts within the college and Franklin County. Kicking off with an experimental-performance class taught by Double Edge at GCC next semester, this partnership will evolve into a multi-year endeavor to engage a diverse mix of students and community members in longer productions and spectacles. Founded in Boston in 1982 as a feminist ensemble and laboratory for the creative process, Double Edge has been an integral part of the community in Ashfield for the past 25 years. Located on a 105-acre former dairy farm, the theatre welcomes people from around the world to come study, move, perform, produce, and explore the intersection of art and social justice. Over 700 students have come through the company’s rigorous and intensive training. Artistic home to a multitude of passions, skills, and interests, Double Edge attracts thousands of theater-goers every year. Shows are sold out months in advance, and the company has brought its imaginative and visceral work across the U.S. and as far as Central Europe, South America, and Norway.

Cosmetology Student Salon at STCC Accepting Clients

SPRINGFIELD — Need a haircut or manicure? How about a scalp treatment? Consider stopping by the Cosmetology Student Salon at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC). The salon, located in Building 20, Room 217, is open to clients Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays for walk-ins 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. There is a nominal fee for services. No appointment is necessary. Students can assist with haircuts, styling, scalp treatments, conditioning treatments, manicures, and paraffin hand treatments. A Redken Professional School, the student salon uses and sells Redken and Matrix professional products. Students in the salon are enrolled in the cosmetology program at STCC, which teaches the art, science, and business aspects of the cosmetology profession. Students who successfully complete the two-semester program will receive a certificate in cosmetology. All students who work in the lab have completed certain requirements mandated by the Massachusetts Cosmetology Rules and Regulations. For more information, call the salon at (413) 755-4837. To learn more, visit stcc.edu/explore/programs/cosm.crt.

Fresh Paint Releases Economic-impact Report

SPRINGFIELD — Fresh Paint Springfield, the first-ever downtown mural festival that took place in June 2019 and transformed 10 large exterior walls into art, has released a report on the positive economic impact that occurred in Springfield from last year’s festival. Fresh Paint Springfield has also announced plans for a 2020 festival, which is set to take place June 1-13, 2020 and will paint exterior walls in Mason Square and downtown Springfield. Nominations for 2020 murals on walls in Mason Square or downtown can be made at www.freshpaintspringfield.com/walls. The economic-impact study involved a team of specialists from the UMass Design Center and Jessica Payne Consulting to measure concrete participatory, financial, cultural, community, and environmental outcomes of the festival. The full report can be downloaded at www.freshpaintspringfield.com. The study found that Fresh Paint Springfield stimulated new investment in the downtown community and showcased the connection between public art and economic development. The resulting economic impact to Springfield was $361,481. The study also found that business owners benefited from an uptick in revenue during the festival, and the murals permanently improved the walkability of downtown. All business owners reported that sponsoring the festival was a good use of city and state economic-development funds, and would like to see Fresh Paint Springfield happen again. Respondents also overwhelmingly agreed that the murals and festival events valued public art and built a greater sense of community. The festival drew 12 sponsors, including foundations, nonprofits, municipal agencies, and businesses.

Company Notebook

Westmass Moves Corporate Offices to Downtown Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — Westmass Area Development Corp. announced the opening of its new corporate offices in downtown Springfield. Located at One Monarch Place, Suite 1350, the new offices will host all corporate functions of Westmass with capacity to continue regional awareness and growth. The new office location will enable Westmass to continue to brand itself as a regional development company focusing on opportunities in real estate and economic development in Western Mass. “An opportunity to move into downtown Springfield is great for Westmass,” said Jeff Daley, president and CEO. “We look to expand our market throughout Western Mass. for real-estate development opportunities as well as working with municipalities and private developers providing consulting services to assist with the technical details of real estate and economic-development projects in Western Mass.” He noted that Westmass also maintains offices at Ludlow Mills. “As a nationally recognized brownfield-redevelopment site and the marquee project in our portfolio, with hundreds of residents and employees living and working at the Mills, it is important to not only have our facilities management office there, but to house our expanding leasing and marketing departments as well.”

Florence Bank Unveils Renovated Easthampton Branch

EASTHAMPTON — Florence Bank has completed a renovation of the interior and drive-through at its existing Easthampton branch at 5 Main St. The renovation is part of Florence Bank’s ongoing effort to align its physical branch locations with modern banking offerings and customer needs. The Easthampton renovation included interior updates and modernizations, along with two new ATMs. Florence Bank is a full-service, mutually owned bank based in Florence and has served the Easthampton community for 20 years. It first merged with Easthampton Cooperative Bank and expanded and remodeled its present location on Main Street in 1999. The Easthampton location serves more than 6,400 customers annually. The renovations were intended to maintain the branch’s charm while also embracing the innovative design of Florence Bank’s newly constructed locations. The bank partnered with the following local contractors on the project: HAI Architecture in Northampton, Pioneer Contractors in Easthampton, Broadway Office Interiors in Springfield, Fine Woodworks Millwork in South Hadley, Mercier Carpets in West Springfield, and Grimaldi Painting in East Longmeadow. Inside, the lobby, teller line, and customer-service area were renovated and updated, making the interior brighter and more contemporary. A new digital screen has also been installed to keep customers up to date on bank-wide enhancements and notifications. Outside, two new ATMs are now available, and the drive-up teller equipment was enhanced to provide two-way audio/video communication. Florence Bank opened a branch on Allen Street in Springfield in late 2018. In 2020, the bank will open its newest Hampden County location in Chicopee, expanding its network to 12 locations.

Behavioral Health Network Receives $10,000 Grant from PeoplesBank

SPRINGFIELD — Behavioral Health Network Inc. (BHN) has been awarded a $10,000 grant from PeoplesBank to be used for BHN’s Money School program, a financial-independence initiative for survivors of domestic or sexual violence who are also recovering from addiction. PeoplesBank’s grant to BHN will support the operation of the Elizabeth Freeman Center’s Money School program. Money School is an award-winning, trauma-informed, financial-independence initiative designed to create long-term safety and economic security for survivors. Participants are given individually tailored financial and career mentoring as well as intensive advocacy and support for their substance-use recovery and healing in the aftermath of domestic or sexual violence. The program helps survivors achieve and maintain safety, economic independence, and family well-being for themselves and their children. Kathy Wilson, president and CEO of BHN, noted that “much of our work at BHN has to do with supporting and engaging with people as they overcome obstacles and plan a better future for themselves. The Money School program has been particularly effective in helping women to take control of their finances, one of the most difficult challenges for anyone when navigating the long-term impact of domestic violence. We deeply appreciate the resources being provided by PeoplesBank in this vital program that is changing the lives of the women served.” The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that one in four women report experiencing domestic violence. In addition to physical abuse, domestic-violence survivors often experience financial duress, and almost half of domestic-violence victims struggle with substance-use disorders.

Tighe & Bond Opens Office in Portland, Maine

WESTFIELD — Tighe & Bond Inc. a northeastern leader in engineering and environmental consulting, opened a new office in Portland, Maine this month. The 4,400-square-foot office, located just minutes from Portland City Hall and the Old Port, will allow the firm to better serve its growing base of clients throughout Maine and the region while providing an opportunity to employ professionals native to the area. Senior Project Manager Dan Bisson will provide leadership for Tighe & Bond’s newest office. Bisson has more than 25 years of experience with management, permitting, planning, design, and construction of water infrastructure projects for municipalities, utilities, and private clients. Tighe & Bond’s strategic plan calls for geographic growth to further reinforce its position as a Northeast regional leader in engineering and environmental services. The company is experiencing office expansions and staffing growth in multiple locations throughout the Northeast, adding four offices in the past five years and expanding its Worcester office earlier this year.

Davis Educational Foundation Awards $100,000 to CCGS Joint Purchasing Initiative

LONGMEADOW — The Davis Educational Foundation has awarded the CCGS Joint Purchasing Initiative a $100,000 grant to be distributed over two years. This is the third grant by the Davis Educational Foundation to underwrite this collaborative project. The Joint Purchasing Initiative (JPI) consists of the five private member institutions of the Cooperating Colleges of Greater Springfield (CCGS), including American International College, Bay Path University, Elms College, Springfield College, and Western New England University. The goal of the JPI, which will continue to be administered by Bay Path University, is to identify and implement strategic opportunities for collaboration where shared purchasing and shared services in high-cost and high-impact areas will result in significant institutional cost savings across the JPI’s partner institutions, ultimately containing the cost of higher education for students. Since its founding in 2017, the efforts of the JPI have resulted in collective cost savings of nearly $900,000, with varying degrees of savings by institution. During this time, the JPI reduced costs by negotiating better deals on contracted services with vendors, such as student transportation for athletics and van leasing, rental-car agreements, contract management, corporate payment systems, IRB software, employee and student background checks, electricity and solar sources of energy, interpretive and captioning services, medical-waste-disposal services, and computer purchases. With the funding from the latest grant from the Davis Educational Foundation, the next step in the evolution of the JPI is to explore and develop potential plans for shared services, implement best practices, reduce duplication of efforts, and drive efficiency gains with the expertise already existing within the institutions.

HCC Marks 20th Year of Giving Tree Campaign

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) celebrated the 20th anniversary of its annual Giving Tree campaign Thursday, fulfilling the holiday wishes of 375 consumers from four nonprofits that aid and support some of the area’s most at-risk residents. During the campaign’s closing ceremony, HCC students, faculty, and staff gathered with representatives from WestMass Elder Care, Homework House, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC), and the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home to share food, stories, and gifts. Eleven HCC departments participated in this year’s Fall Food Fest in November, raising $833 for the Giving Tree campaign. The money was used to fulfill 26 gift tags for MSPCC and create gift boxes that included baby wipes, diapers, clothing, books, and toys. Each year during the annual campaign, Giving Trees are set up in designated areas around the HCC campus. Participants choose colored-coded tags from one of the nonprofit agencies based on the age of the recipient and their wish for a gift. The wrapped gifts are then sorted and piled on tables for the closing celebration.

Family Business Center Awards Grand-funded Memberships to Three Women Business Owners

HOLYOKE — At the Family Business Center’s (FBC) December Log Cabin Dinner Forum, Lakisha Coppedge of Coppedge Consulting, Kimberley Betts of Betts Plumbing & Heating Supply, and Sherryla Diola of Mundo Artisan Foods were awarded grant-funded memberships for the 2020 year. This inaugural grant, aimed at supporting women business leaders in Western Mass., was funded by Encharter Insurance. “My goal is to grow our trusted business learning community intentionally, and to increase diversity and inclusion,” said Jessi Kirley, FBC executive director, who collaborated with the women leaders of local partner organizations, including the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center, Leadership Pioneer Valley, EforAll, and Valley CDC, for nominations and selection of the award recipients. Added Tracey Benison, president of Encharter Insurance, “women-owned businesses are critical to the success of small business in the Pioneer Valley. As a women-led insurance agency, Encharter looks for meaningful ways to support women-owned businesses. The recipients of the scholarships are standouts in their professions. We are excited to support their continued journey of learning.”

Company Notebook

City, MGM Springfield Win Economic-development Award

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield and the city of Springfield Office of Planning and Economic Development (OPED) have received a 2019 Excellence in Economic Development Award from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) for the MGM Springfield project. The award was presented by the IEDC last month at its annual conference in October in Indianapolis. The Gold Excellence in Public-Private Partnership Award was presented to Brian Connors, the city’s deputy director of Economic Development, and was the only award category highlighted during the conference keynote event. The award recognizes outstanding and innovative development projects that have significantly enhanced revitalizations. OPED’s team was led through the MGM Springfield project by now-retired Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy, and also included Phillip Dromey, deputy director of Planning, and Scott Hanson, principal planner. The MGM Springfield project represented a $960 million private investment, resulting in several new-to-market amenities, including a downtown movie theater, bowling alley, ice-skating rink, four-star hotel, and several new retail and restaurant offerings. In addition, MGM’s commitment to populate existing offsite entertainment facilities became another highlight to economic spinoff, as did the commitment to $50 million each year in spending with local vendors. The project has created several thousand construction and permanent jobs and greatly enhanced local revenues, which helped fund additional public-safety, early-education, and park improvements.

United Personnel Named Among Top 100 Women-led Businesses In Massachusetts

SPRINGFIELD — United Personnel announced it has been named one of the top 100 women-led businesses in Massachusetts by the Commonwealth Institute, a nonprofit that supports female business owners. The list, published in the Boston Globe, was developed based on revenue, number of full-time employees in the state, team diversity, and innovation. The rankings feature a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, business services, healthcare, education, human services, and retail. United Personnel was number 75 on the list, and was one of only two companies based in Western Mass. represented. Focused on helping to connect people with job openings at local companies, United Personnel has seen decades of success as a women-led organization. Founded by Mary Ellen Scott in 1984 with her late husband, Jay Canavan, United Personnel is now on its second generation of female leadership under President Tricia Canavan.

Hampshire College Maintains Accreditation, Advances Plans

AMHERST — Hampshire College remains in compliance and will continue its accreditation, according to a vote by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) at its meeting on Nov. 22. NECHE reviewed Hampshire’s progress report and five-year plans before acting to continue the college’s accreditation. The commissioners lifted their notation on Hampshire’s compliance with the standard of organization and governance, citing significant progress in this area. NECHE recognized such progress as the hiring of a new president, substantial achievements with respect to good practices for governing boards, and considerable progress in realistic planning with respect to enrollment, fundraising, and finances. The commissioners continued Hampshire’s notation on the standard of institutional resources and asked the college for a full progress report in two years, in December 2021. A team of Hampshire College administrators and trustees, led by Wingenbach and board chair Luis Hernandez, met with the NECHE commissioners on Nov. 21 and reported that Hampshire’s leadership is secure and its board of trustees governance is strong. The college is actively recruiting new students for 2020, its 50th-anniversary year, as it plans to rebuild to full enrollment by 2023-24. The college has also been conducting a rapid, community-wide process to reinvent its curriculum and student experience. In the coming months, Hampshire will draw on the continued support of its alumni, donors, friends, and community members to meet admissions and fundraising goals. Hampshire College also kicked off a major capital campaign, announcing it has already raised $11.2 million in gifts toward its campaign goal of $60 million by 2024. “Change in the Making: A Campaign for Hampshire” is currently led by four alumni co-chairs: Ken Burns (’71), award-winning documentary filmmaker; Gail Caulkins (’73), president of the Greenacre Foundation and former Hampshire College trustee; Lucy Ann McFadden (’70), retired astrophysicist, Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA, and a member of the Hampshire board of trustees and chair of its advancement committee; and Julie Schecter (’71), director and trustee of numerous organizations, including the SHIFT Foundation, co-founder of Hampshire’s Ethics and the Common Good program, vice chair of Hampshire’s board of trustees, and chair of its trusteeship and governance committee. The co-chairs are working actively to secure additional major gifts, supported by a campaign council, a diverse group of volunteers that represents the board of trustees, major donors, college leaders, faculty, staff, students, and parents. The campaign is administered by Chief Advancement Officer Jennifer Chrisler and the college’s Advancement Division staff.

People’s United Bank to Close Three Springfield-area Branches

SPRINGFIELD — Following its acquisition of United Bank, People’s United Bank plans to close three Springfield-area branches in April, all of them because they are near other People’s United locations. The closures include the former United branch at 1355 Boston Road in Springfield, the former United Branch at 1414 Main St. in Springfield, and a former Farmington Bank location at 85 Elm St. in West Springfield that People’s United acquired in 2018. All employees have been offered jobs at other People’s United offices. People’s United Financial announced in July it was purchasing United Financial Bancorp for $759 million.

Elms College Ranked in Top 15% of State’s Best Schools for Veterans

CHICOPEE — Elms College ranks in the top 15% of 2020 Best Colleges for Veterans in Massachusetts, according to data-analytics company College Factual. The college is also in the top 15% of colleges and universities in the company’s national rankings. In the list of Best Colleges for Veterans in Massachusetts, Elms College was rated ninth out of 70 higher-education institutions for veteran friendliness as reviewed by College Factual. Elms improved its standing five slots over last year’s 14th position. According to College Factual’s national list, Elms College moved from the top 25% to the top 15% with a rating of 214 out of 1,751 institutions, improving its position by 225 slots over last year’s standing at 439. This list highlights colleges and universities that are working hard to provide quality educational outcomes to veterans, active-duty military students, and their families, College Factual stated. Some of the factors taken into account by College Factual include affordability to veterans, support services, and resources specific to the needs of veterans, whether they are traditional or non-traditional students.

UMassFive Opens Branch at Northampton VA Medical Center

NORTHAMPTON — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union introduced its newest branch location at the Northampton VA Medical Center. As of October, the Northampton VAF Federal Credit Union has formally merged with UMassFive College Federal Credit Union, and former Northampton VAF members have transitioned to banking with UMassFive. With this merger, current employees of the Northampton VA Medical Center and their immediate family members are now eligible for UMassFive membership. Along with the merger, the existing credit-union branch located in Building 1, Room B204 of the Northampton VA Medical Center has been completely renovated. The new, open floor plan includes seated service areas where UMassFive representatives can provide members access to a range of credit-union products and services, including checking, auto loans, home-equity loans, solar loans, mortgages, credit cards, and investment guidance. The space also now features a video teller machine that can be accessed in the branch entryway, and allows members to perform video transactions with UMassFive tellers, even while the branch is closed. As with other UMassFive locations, members at the Northampton VA branch will have access to free financial workshops on topics like budgeting essentials, homebuying, identity theft, and planning for retirement. The hours for this new UMassFive branch are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Off-hours access to the lobby video teller machine are available when the building and basement are open, and during regular video-teller hours. Any credit or debit card may be swiped for after-hours entry.

Freedom Credit Union Launches Cherish the Children Campaign

SPRINGFIELD — To a child in need, one special gift can be a holiday wish come true. That’s the spirit behind Freedom Credit Union’s 12th annual Cherish the Children campaign, which provides presents to hundreds of local children in time for the holidays. Freedom Credit Union (FCU), headquartered on Main Street in Springfield and serving members throughout Western Mass. through 10 additional branches, will host this year’s endeavor through Dec. 23. Equipped with ‘wish lists’ of names, ages, and gift ideas from the local area offices of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), FCU aims to provide gifts for a total of 600 children in need. From the wish lists, FCU has produced a tag for each child, which they will place on holiday trees at all Freedom branches, excluding the Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy. Employees and members are encouraged to choose one or more tags from a tree, purchase the item the child has requested, bring it to the branch (unwrapped and with tag attached), and place it under the tree. Monetary donations are also welcome, as FCU’s own ‘elves’ will be going on a festive shopping spree at local stores that provide them a discount for this campaign.

Yankee Home Improvement Holds Annual Food Drive

CHICOPEE — For the second year in a row, Yankee Home is engaging customers in a pay-it-forward event to provide food for those in need this holiday season. For every non-perishable food item donated, Yankee Home will give customers 1% off the cost of their home-improvement service, up to 10%. All food items will be donated to Rachel’s Table, a program of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts that works to eliminate hunger and reduce food waste in the community. Through the end of December, Yankee Home will be accepting non-perishable food items Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at its 36 Justin Dr. headquarters in Chicopee. While the discount is capped at 10% of the total cost of the service, people are encouraged to donate as much as they can. The discount applies to installed, new work only. A Yankee Home specialist can provide complete details.

Florence Bank Receives Award From U.S. Small Business Administration

FLORENCE — Florence Bank was recently recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as the Western Massachusetts Third Party Lender of the Year for loans the bank administers to small businesses in the area. Michael Davey and Erin Couture, both vice presidents and commercial loan officers with the bank, accepted the award on Nov. 8 at an event held during SBA’s annual meeting at Clark University in Worcester. Davey explained that third-party loans, called SBA 504 loans, are offered by the bank in collaboration with certified development corporations such as Granite State Development Corp., Bay Colony Development Corp., and BDC Capital/CDC New England. He said the program allows small-business owners who might be lacking the traditional 20% down payment to purchase business property with only 10% down, while also reducing the bank’s exposure to risk.

Company Notebook

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.”

Agenda

Celebrity Bartending Tip-Off Fundraiser

March 7: The Hampden County Legal Clinic (HCLC), an award-winning, nationally recognized pro bono program of the Hampden County Bar Assoc. and the Hampden County Bar Foundation, has provided free legal advice and law-related services to the underserved through a variety of pro bono initiatives and community-based programs for 11 years. The HCLC and its pro bono associate advisory board are delighted to announce the first inaugural Celebrity Bartending Tip-Off Fundraiser to support the Legal Clinic. The event will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. at Art e’ Pizza, 272 Worthington St., Springfield. Along with food and entertainment, the event will feature local celebrity bartenders and a silent auction. This event is open to all. For more information, call the HCLC at (413) 733-6500.

‘Daniel Shays & America’s First Non-violent Protest’

March 9: Historian and author Dan Bullen will present “Captain Daniel Shays & America’s First Non-violent Protest” at 2 p.m. in the Springfield Armory Museum. The program will take place in the museum theater. Admission is free, but reservations are required due to limited seating. On Jan. 25, 1787, Shays marched 1,200 farmers and veterans to Springfield to seize the federal arsenal’s stockpiles of weapons, to keep them from falling into the hands of the governor’s army, which was coming to impose martial law in the Connecticut River Valley. For five months, Shays and the farmers of Massachusetts had peacefully protested the state’s economic policies, which explicitly favored the merchant elites, but the governor and other leaders saw the people’s opposition as a threat to the state’s authority. Bullen writes that he found this story deeply engaging “not just as a local history, but as an ongoing story of Americans banding together to protect the liberties they’d won in the Revolution.” Bullen will tell the story of the economic, social, and political factors that brought thousands of men in arms to Springfield in 1787 and ultimately led to reforms in Massachusetts and then to the drafting of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For further information about the event, call (413) 734-8551.

Difference Makers

March 28: BusinessWest launched its Difference Makers program in 2009 to celebrate individuals, groups, organizations, and families that are positively impacting the Pioneer Valley and are, as the name suggests, making a difference in this region. The class of 2019 was profiled in the Feb. 4 issue and will be feted at the Difference Makers Gala on March 28 at 5 p.m. at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. Tickets are on sale now for $75. To reserve a spot, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or e-mail [email protected] The presenting sponsor is Baystate Health/Health New England, and other event sponsors include Royal, P.C., Burkhart Pizzanelli, P.C., Development Associates, TommyCar Auto Group, and Viability Inc.

Women’s Leadership Conference

March 29: In celebration of women everywhere knocking down doors and breaking through glass ceilings, Bay Path University will host its 24th annual Women’s Leadership Conference (WLC) at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. This one-day event, which has become the region’s prime women’s leadership event for professional networking and enrichment, will challenge women seeking to make career or life changes to look at the power within to make their dreams a reality, and to dare to ask “why not me?” instead of “why me?” Delivering the keynote address will be award-winning actress, dancer, and singer Rita Moreno, one of only four women who have achieved the EGOT, the grand slam of entertainment-industry awards, by winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. Mel Robbins, a serial entrepreneur, best-selling author, life strategist, internationally recognized social-media influencer, and one of the most sought-after motivational speakers in the world, will deliver the conference’s luncheon keynote. She is the CEO and co-founder of the Confidence Project, a media and digital learning company working with Fortune 500 brands to help employees build habits of confidence and courage. The conference’s opening keynote speaker will be announced soon. In addition to the three keynote speakers, breakout sessions focused on reimagining the narrative around women in leadership will be led by Cy Wakeman, drama researcher, global thought leader, New York Times best-selling author, and president and founder of Reality-Based Leadership; Kim Meninger, certified executive and leadership development coach and president and founder of Executive Career Success; Dr. Kristina Hallet, board-certified clinical psychologist, and associate professor of Psychology at Bay Path, executive coach, and best-selling author; and Kim Lear, founder of Inlay Insights, storyteller, writer, and researcher. For further information on the conference and to register, visit www.baypathconference.com.

EANE Leadership Conference

April 4: The Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE) will stage its annual Leadership Conference on Thursday, April 4 at the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place with a focus on measuring success while motivating and inspiring one’s team to improve performance. The program will feature Jim McPartlin, vice president of Leadership Development for Forbes Travel Guide. McPartlin’s keynote will challenge attendees to bring integrity to their leadership responsibilities, even when times get tough. A second keynote will be presented by Tim Hebert, a perennial entrepreneur, innovator, author, speaker, and adventurer. Hebert will ignite the leadership spark in attendees in a keynote focused on the choices of leadership and techniques to help live life by design, not by default. Between keynote presentations, conference attendees will have access to dozens of breakout session topics ranging from performance management to diversity and inclusion, to perfecting ‘C-suite speak,’ and more. The cost for the program is $360 per person with discounts for three or more. Register at www.eane.org/leadership-2019 or by calling (877) 662-6444. The program will offer 5.75 credits from the HR Certification Institute and SHRM.

 

Springfield Art Stop

April 26: The Springfield Cultural Partnership (SCP) announced the return of Art Stop, a pop-up gallery/street festival hybrid, from 5 to 8 p.m. The SCP is partnering with venues downtown to open galleries in unexpected spaces simultaneously. Additionally, several existing Springfield art galleries along this year’s route will also participate as stops along the Art Stop. Between the galleries, which will have the typical artist talks and receptions, there will be street performances. Art Stop was designed to activate underutilized community spaces with colorful art, create economic opportunity for artists, and bring communities together. Galleries will all be located in downtown Springfield. Each individual gallery opening will have an reception with the artist on site to both sell and talk about their work. This year, the SCP has also partnered with several downtown restaurants that will offer a discount on food to Art Stop attendees who present their Art Stop ‘passport’ on April 26. The SCP, along with organizing the curation of art in the pop-up spaces, is hiring unique buskers to encourage attendees to walk from place to place. Guides will be strategically placed to guide attendees along the Art Stop route. The performers will showcase an array of dance, music, and entertainment. All locations are within a walkable area.

Bay Path President’s Gala

April 27: Bay Path University has announced its third annual President’s Gala, “Dance a Mile in Their Shoes,” to take place at the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel. Lindsay Arnold, a Dancing with the Stars professional and season 25 champion, and So You Think You Can Dance fan favorite, will lend her expertise for her second year in a row as the event’s celebrity judge. Arnold will be joined at the judges’ table by actor, producer, Springfield native, and Bay Path alumna JoAnna Rhinehart, who is currently appearing in My Fair Lady on Broadway. The Bay Path University President’s Gala will feature a Dancing with the Stars-style ballroom dance competition infused with telling the story of the university’s mission — empowering undergraduate women and graduate women and men to flourish in a constantly changing world. Last year’s event netted more than $315,000 in support of the Bold Women’s Scholarship and the Finish Line Fund. These scholarships are awarded to assist students in removing obstacles standing in the way of achieving their goal of receiving a college degree. This year’s featured dancers at the gala are Lamont Clemons, Business Development for Secure Energy Solutions, executive vice President of S-Cel-O Painting, and Bay Path trustee; Erin Hornyak, Bay Path advisory council member and Longmeadow resident; and Jillian Jusko, blogger and Longmeadow resident. Clemons, Hornyak, and Jusko are undergoing training with Daryll and Gunnar Sverrisson, ballroom dance champions and owners of Ballroom Fever in Enfield, Conn., as they prepare to compete to raise scholarship funds and take home the Mirror Ball Trophy. In addition to the performances, the gala will feature an auction, dinner, and live entertainment by the Boston-based band Protégé. The President’s Gala will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception and silent auction, followed by a seated dinner at 7:30 p.m. The dancing competition will begin at 8:30 p.m., and at 9 p.m. guests will be invited to dance the night away. Tickets are on sale now at www.baypath.edu/gala.

Aerosmith Concerts

Aug. 21, 24, 26, and 29: Aerosmith will bring “Deuces Are Wild — East Coast Run,” a special edition of its Las Vegas residency show, to MGM Springfield for four nights. Along with never-before-seen visuals and audio from Aerosmith recording sessions, the performances will be presented in L-ISA Hyperreal sound. The shows will take place at the MassMutual Center. Tickets went on sale to the general public on March 1.

Briefcase

Employer Confidence Slides to Begin 2019

BOSTON — Stabilizing financial markets and continued strong employment were not enough to brighten the outlook of Massachusetts employers during January as business confidence fell for the fifth time in seven months. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Business Confidence Index lost 0.9 points to 57.7, its lowest level since October 2016. Confidence has dropped 6.4 points during the past 12 months. The retreat was led by a 7.3-point drop in employer views of the Massachusetts economy and a 2.4-point drop in opinions about the national economy. Overall confidence remains within optimistic territory, but every element of the AIM Index is now lower than it was a year ago. A separate survey within the January Business Confidence Index found that, while 71% of Massachusetts employers have seen some effect from the U.S. government’s imposition of tariffs on goods form China and other nations, only 10% of companies characterize the effect as “significant” or a threat to the existence of their business. The most common consequence of the tariffs has been an increase in raw-material prices, followed by changes to the supply chain, supply interruptions, products affected by retaliatory tariffs, and loss of overseas customers.

1Berkshire Begins to Implement Berkshire Blueprint 2.0

PITTSFIELD — On Feb. 15, 1Berkshire launched the implementation phase of the Berkshire Blueprint 2.0, a strategic economic-development imperative. With more than 300 registered attendees packing the Colonial Theatre in downtown Pittsfield, 1Berkshire members, regional leaders, and elected officials from across the county shared this project, already two years in the making. The event was the culmination of more than 100 interviews, thousands of hours of work, and more than 20 months of planning and design. 1Berkshire President and CEO Jonathan Butler kicked off the primary outline during the launch by recognizing that $1 billion in regional investments have been made in the Berkshires in just the last three years. Beginning the implementation phase of the Blueprint 2.0 entails a number of action steps, focused on five key industrial clusters, as well as other economic-landscape components and cross-cutting issues. Collectively, this work aims to unite all geographic corners of the county for a common goal of economic development and sustained growth.

Study Shows Economic Impact of Westover Air Show

AMHERST — A UMass Amherst economic impact study estimates that the two-day Great New England Air Show (GNEAS) held at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee in July 2018 generated $4.3 million in direct and induced local spending. The findings confirm increased per-group spending and their impacts on the local economy even though attendance was significantly down; 2018 attendance was estimated to be around 63,475, down from the 375,500 estimated in 2015. The study was undertaken to understand the economic impact and to benchmark the findings of the 2008 and 2015 air shows for the Galaxy Community Council, a charitable corporation of veterans, local business people, and other citizens who work to support the Westover base. The project was completed by the Hospitality and Tourism Management Department of the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. The overall economic significance including respondents’ expenditures both within and outside the region of the air show for 2018 was estimated to be $4.02 million. However, when local attendees were removed, the direct economic expenditures from non-locals was estimated to be $2.67 million, and the direct and induced sales multiplier impact overall was estimated to be $4.3 million. This compares to an economic significance in 2015 that was $11.6 million and a local direct economic impact (including the sales multiplier) of $14.9 million. In 2008, economic significance was $8.2 million, and the direct economic impact was $12.3 million.

Holyoke Wins Grant to Create Services for Older Victims of Domestic Abuse

HOLYOKE — The city of Holyoke has been awarded a grant of $398,205 from the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women for a period of three years to create and enhance services for older victims of domestic abuse. This will allow the city to create and design Project Combating Abuse in Later Life (CALL) to address domestic abuse for those aged 50 and older who reside in the city. Project CALL will partner with the Holyoke Police Department, the Hampden District Attorney’s Office, Womanshelter Companeras, and WestMass ElderCare and receive advanced training on abuse in later life from the Office of Violence against Women, then conduct training to law enforcement, service providers, and residents to enhance effective service. Project CALL will have an HPD Elder Affairs Officer team up with a victim advocate and conduct direct services and outreach to those designated as high-risk. This team will enhance victim safety by not only providing support and services to the victim, but finding community-based interventions for the abuser while simultaneously placing them on high-risk status and sharing their information with the CALL Task Force and across systems. The collaborative team aims to have contacts at points of abuse and arrests, and include direct support through the court process. This team will also be responsible for community-based monitoring, case management, and responding to emergency referrals and implementing safety plans for the victims. The CALL Task Force will also act as a wraparound support system responsible for identifying the underserved Spanish elderly population by developing, implementing, and distributing a safety-plan brochure in Spanish for elder victims of domestic violence.

Opioid-related Overdose Deaths Decline for Second Straight Year

BOSTON — Opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts declined by 4% in 2018 compared to 2017, marking the second consecutive year-over-year decrease in deaths, according to the latest quarterly opioid-related overdose deaths report released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. That 4% decline follows a 2% decrease in opioid-related overdose deaths between 2016 and 2017. Fentanyl, however, remained a key factor in opioid-related overdose deaths; it was present in the toxicology of 89% of those who died of an opioid-related overdose and had a toxicology screen in the third quarter of 2018. Meanwhile, the rate of heroin or likely heroin present has been declining since 2016, falling to about 34% of opioid-related overdose deaths that had a toxicology screen in the third quarter of 2018. In 2018, preliminary estimates showed 1,974 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths, or 82 fewer deaths than the 2,056 confirmed and estimated deaths in 2017. There were 2,099 confirmed deaths in 2016. “The decrease in overdose deaths provides some hope that our approach to combating the opioid epidemic is having an impact,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “We must maintain an intense focus on this crisis and continue to expand opportunities to increase harm-reduction initiatives and expand treatment and recovery services.” While the report showed an overall decline in opioid-related overdose deaths, non-Hispanic black males experienced a 45% increase from 2016 to 2017 in the opioid-related overdose death rate.

Historic Restoration Begins at Old Hampshire County Courthouse

NORTHAMPTON — HCG announced the official start of the historic Hampshire County Courthouse restoration. This phase of the project consists of repairs to the roof, tower, as well as windows and masonry. The building is owned and occupied by HCG. Arlington-based Boston Bay Architects Inc. is overseeing the $1.8 million project, and Wesfield Construction Co. Inc. of New Hampshire won the bid for construction. The restoration will begin at the top of the southern facing tower with the replacement of terracotta roof tiles. Exterior repairs include masonry stone restoration and brick stabilization. The tower interior carpentry work will focus on roof, floor, stairs, and railings. At the completion of the tower, the work will continue down the southern façade with window repair and replacement to energy-efficient historical windows. In October 2017, the Baker-Polito administration announced the release of Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) funds to HCG for this current phase of repairs. In 2015, DCAMM released $500,000 for safety repairs to the building’s steps and roof. The Northampton Community Preservation committee has played an integral role in the plans for this phase of renovation, contributing $200,000 to the building restoration. Local Community Preservation Acts contributed an additional $10,000 from Hatfield and $8,000 from Goshen. Area banks have pledged $38,000, and the Hampshire Foundation Buy a Brick program provided $8,800 from local residents and businesses.

Agenda

Real-estate Sales Licensing Course

Feb. 20 to March 25: The Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley will sponsor a 40-hour, 14-class sales licensing course to help individuals prepare for the Massachusetts real-estate salesperson license exam. Tuition costs $400 and includes the book and materials. The course curriculum includes property rights, ownership, condos, land use, contracts, deeds, financing, mortgages, real-estate brokerage, appraisal, fair housing, consumer protection, Massachusetts license law, and more. Classes meet Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m. at the association office, 221 Industry Ave., Springfield. For an application, contact Joanne Leblond at (413) 785-1328 or [email protected] or visit www.rapv.com.

‘Living Contemplatively in a Busy World’

March 3: Elms College will host a day of reflection titled “Living Contemplatively in a Busy World” on Sunday, March 3 from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Decice Hall at the Marian Center, 1365 Northampton St., Holyoke. “This day of reflections, personal exploration, and prayer invites you to respond, from the busy-ness of your days, to God’s desire for deeper life with you,” said Virginia Collins-English, a certified spiritual director, retreat director, writer, and psychotherapist who will lead the day of reflection. All are welcome, including those who are ‘spiritual but not religious,’ those who feel marginalized by the church, and those of all faiths. Attendees should bring a bag lunch. Beverages and dessert will be provided. Sponsored by the Religious Studies Department and the Institute for Theology and Pastoral Studies, this event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. To register, call (413) 265-2575 or e-mail [email protected]

 

Outlook Luncheon

March 4: Margaret Carlson, columnist for the Daily Beast, will be the keynote speaker at the Springfield Regional Chamber’s annual Outlook luncheon, to be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 pm. at the MassMutual Center, 1277 Main St., Springfield. Presented by Health New England, the Springfield Regional Chamber Outlook is the area’s largest legislative event, attracting more than 700 guests and presenting expert speakers on local, state, and federal issues. The event is sponsored by platinum sponsors Eastern States Exposition, Eversource, MassMutual Financial Group, and United Personnel; and gold sponsors Bulkley Richardson and Berkshire Bank. Program/reception sponsors are Comcast, Mercy Medical Center, BusinessWest, the Healthcare News, and the Republican, with Zasco Productions as sound sponsor. Carlson was formerly chief political columnist for Bloomberg News and White House correspondent for Time. She appeared on CNN’s Capital Gang for 15 years. Speaking about the federal outlook will be U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, whose new role is chair of the powerful, tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. He will provide his insights into the committee’s work, the 116th Congress, and front-burner issues facing the American people. In addition, Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy will offer the state outlook. Tickets cost $60 for Springfield Regional Chamber members and $80 for general admission. Reserved tables of 10 are available. Reservations must be made by Wednesday, Feb. 20 by visiting www.springfieldregionalchamber.com or e-mailing [email protected] No walk-ins will be accepted, and no cancellations will be accepted once the reservation deadline has passed.

Difference Makers

March 28: BusinessWest launched its Difference Makers program in 2009 to celebrate individuals, groups, organizations, and families that are positively impacting the Pioneer Valley and are, as the name suggests, making a difference in this region. The class of 2019 was profiled in the Feb. 4 issue and will be feted at the Difference Makers Gala on March 28 at 5 p.m. at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. Tickets are on sale now for $75. To reserve a spot, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or e-mail [email protected] The presenting sponsor is Baystate Health/Health New England, and other event sponsors include Royal, P.C., Burkhart Pizzanelli, P.C., Development Associates, Tommy Car Auto Group, and Viability Inc.

Women’s Leadership Conference

March 29: In celebration of women everywhere knocking down doors and breaking through glass ceilings, Bay Path University will host its 24th annual Women’s Leadership Conference (WLC) at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. This one-day event, which has become the region’s prime women’s leadership event for professional networking and enrichment, will challenge women seeking to make career or life changes to look at the power within to make their dreams a reality, and to dare to ask “why not me?” instead of “why me?” Delivering the keynote address will be award-winning actress, dancer, and singer Rita Moreno, one of only four women who have achieved the EGOT, the grand slam of entertainment-industry awards, by winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. Throughout her 70-year career, Moreno has had memorable roles in the musical films The King and I and West Side Story, and in 2004 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor. Mel Robbins, a serial entrepreneur, best-selling author, life strategist, internationally recognized social-media influencer, and one of the most sought-after motivational speakers in the world, will deliver the conference’s luncheon keynote. She is the CEO and co-founder of the Confidence Project, a media and digital learning company working with Fortune 500 brands to help employees build habits of confidence and courage. The conference’s opening keynote speaker will be announced soon. In addition to the three keynote speakers, breakout sessions focused on reimagining the narrative around women in leadership will be led by Cy Wakeman, drama researcher, global thought leader, New York Times best-selling author, and president and founder of Reality-Based Leadership; Kim Meninger, certified executive and leadership development coach and president and founder of Executive Career Success; Dr. Kristina Hallet, board-certified clinical psychologist, and associate professor of Psychology at Bay Path, executive coach, and best-selling author; and Kim Lear, founder of Inlay Insights, storyteller, writer, and researcher. For further information on the conference and to register, visit www.baypathconference.com.

Springfield Art Stop

April 26: The Springfield Cultural Partnership (SCP) announced the return of Art Stop, a pop-up gallery/street festival hybrid, from 5 to 8 p.m. The SCP is partnering with venues downtown to open galleries in unexpected spaces simultaneously. Additionally, several existing Springfield art galleries along this year’s route will also participate as stops along the Art Stop. Between the galleries, which will have the typical artist talks and receptions, there will be street performances. Art Stop was designed to activate underutilized community spaces with colorful art, create economic opportunity for artists, and bring communities together. Galleries will all be located in downtown Springfield. Each individual gallery opening will have an reception with the artist on site to both sell and talk about their work. This year, the SCP has also partnered with several downtown restaurants that will offer a discount on food to Art Stop attendees who present their Art Stop ‘passport’ on April 26. The SCP, along with organizing the curation of art in the pop-up spaces, is hiring unique buskers to encourage attendees to walk from place to place. Guides will be strategically placed to guide attendees along the Art Stop route. The performers will showcase an array of dance, music, and entertainment. All locations are within a walkable area.

Briefcase

Massachusetts Unemployment Drops Slightly in December

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.3% in December, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates indicate Massachusetts added 5,600 jobs in December. Over the month, the private sector added 5,500 jobs as gains occurred in professional, scientific, and business services; other services; education and health services; leisure and hospitality; manufacturing; financial activities; and information. Construction and trade, transportation, and utilities lost jobs over the month. From December 2017 to December 2018, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 65,800 jobs. The December unemployment rate was six-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 3.9% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Preliminary estimates show an addition of 184,700 residents to the labor force during 2018 — the largest yearly increase in the labor force since the beginning of the series in 1976. These labor-force gains, alongside the 65,800 jobs added to the economy last year, are indicators of the continued strength of the job market in the Commonwealth,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta said. The labor force increased by 5,000 from 3,837,000 in November, as 8,800 more residents were employed and 3,800 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped two-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 — increased one-tenth of a percentage point to 68.1%. Compared to December 2017, the labor-force participation rate is up 2.8%. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in professional, scientific, and business services; information; other services; and education and health services.

HCC Secures Grant to Create Hotel Training Lab

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) secured a $35,000 grant to establish a hotel training lab on the second floor of the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute. The award, announced by Gov. Charlie Baker and other administration officials, comes from the Massachusetts Skills Capital Grant Program, which funds the purchase of new equipment for educational initiatives linked to workforce needs. The lab will be set up like a hotel reception area with front desk and adjoining guest room and equipped with up-to-date technology and software. It will be used for non-credit workforce-training programs as well as credit-based associate degree and certificate programs in Hospitality Management. The lab is expected to be up and running in February. The competitive Skills Capital Grants require institutions to partner with local businesses and align the curriculum to meet industry requirements. HCC’s partners include the Log Cabin Delaney House, the Tower Square Hotel Springfield, and MassHire career centers in Holyoke and Springfield. Over the past three years, HCC has been awarded nearly $400,000 through the Skills Capital Grant Program, including $127,741 in 2016 to expand and enhance its EMT Training Program and $229,500 in 2017 for kitchen equipment at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, which opened in January 2018 on Race Street in the Holyoke Innovation District. This new round of Skills Capital Grants mainly targets educational programs for people who may need help overcoming barriers to employment — those who may be unemployed or underemployed, lack English proficiency, or do not yet hold college credentials and want to develop new skills.

UMass Amherst Study Looks at Drought, Virus Impact on Plant Roots and Soil Carbon

AMHERST — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently awarded biogeochemist Marco Keiluweit, assistant professor of Soils and the Environment in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass Amherst, along with his collaborators elsewhere, two grants to study how climate change affects the capacity of soils to remove carbon from the atmosphere and retain enough nutrients for food production. In particular, the teams will investigate climate-change-related effects of drought and virus infection in plants, and their interaction with soils. Keiluweit and colleagues received $200,000 and $300,000 exploratory research awards from DOE’s Biological and Environmental Research program, which supports “high-risk, high-reward” research, the soil-chemistry expert says. Keiluweit’s collaborators include Zoe Cardon at the Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory, the principal investigator on one of the grants, and Malak Tfaily at the University of Arizona, Carolyn Malmstrom at Michigan State University, and William J. Riley at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Their drought-focused research will look at plants in an alpine watershed near Gothic, Colo., where root-soil interactions are key regulators of ecosystem carbon storage and downstream nutrient loadings, the researchers say. These areas have been shown to be particularly vulnerable to climate change, they point out. For this work, Keiluweit says he and collaborators will make “very fine scale measurements of what is happening at the interface between roots and soil” in both greenhouse and field experiments. They want to explore what they call “elusive mechanisms” driving root-soil interaction, which may mobilize a “vast pool of organic matter that has been stabilized by associations with minerals for centuries or millennia.” Such mechanisms are missing from conceptual and numerical models of carbon cycling in soils, they note.

Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke Opens New Boxing Program Space

HOLYOKE — In its heyday, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke was the boxing capital of Massachusetts. Its boxing program attracted seasoned and novice fighters as well as spectators from all over the Commonwealth, as well as Connecticut, New York, and other surrounding states. Some of the more prominent names even included Rocky Marciano and Mike Tyson. After years of planning and six months of buildout, the Boys & Girls Club opened its new boxing program space, equipped with a regulation, 20-foot boxing ring and a variety of punching bags and workout stations. The club will reintroduce the sport as a non-contact youth-development program for after-school and summer-camp members. All activities will focus on mentoring, character development, teamwork, and discipline. Coaches will include members of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, the Holyoke Police Department, and past club alumni.

Company Notebook

Smith Brothers Insurance Merges With the Partners Insurance Agency

EASTHAMPTON — Effective Jan. 1, Smith Brothers Insurance, with offices in Easthampton and West Springfield, and the Partners Insurance Agency, an independent insurance agency located in Vestal, Owego, and Waverly, N.Y., have merged together. This merger expands the Smith Brothers Insurance footprint into upstate New York, where the Partners will maintain local presence while leveraging the resources of Smith Brothers Insurance, one of the nation’s top 100 independent brokers. Owners of the New York offices — Don Patterson, Bill Soprano, Phil Wiles, John Carlin, Michael Constantine, and Chris Hutchings — will stay fully engaged in client service and business development. Constantine will run the New York region, continuing to serve clients with the same team of insurance professionals who have also become employees of Smith Brothers Insurance.

Florence Bank Opens Second Branch in Hampden County

SPRINGFIELD — Florence Bank opened its second Hampden County branch at 1444 Allen St. in Springfield on Dec. 19. “We’re very pleased to be expanding our presence in Springfield,” said John Heaps Jr., Florence Bank’s president and CEO. “Our focus is on providing great customer service and helping to reinvigorate the community.” The Allen Street branch has an open floor plan with two teller pods and innovative technology for quick cash handling. The location will also feature a drive-up ATM with SMART technology for easy depositing and a comfortable waiting area inside with a coffee bar and free wi-fi. Nikki Gleason serves as branch manager for the new location. Other employees include Candice Somar, assistant branch manager; Bianca Hyde, customer service representative (CSR) and teller operations manager; Mario Nascimento, CSR and senior teller; Magdalis “Maggie” Sierra, CSR and senior teller; and Carolyn Ware, community relations director. In August 2017, Florence Bank opened its first branch in Hampden County at 1010 Union St. in West Springfield. The Springfield branch marks the second of several anticipated branches in the region, Heaps said.

WNEU Announces $35 Million ‘Campaign for Our Second Century’

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) announced plans for a comprehensive fundraising campaign designed to enrich the student experience inside and outside the classroom. Named the Campaign for Our Second Century, the philanthropic endeavor launched publicly on 1/9/19 — a nod to the university’s founding year of 1919. Western New England University aims to raise at least $35 million in private support for a range of priorities that will build on the institution’s historic first century and shape its future progress. Those priorities fit into five overall fundraising objectives: growing scholarship aid, building and enhancing campus facilities, creating impactful opportunities for student life, boosting academic initiatives and experiences, and strengthening the President’s Fund for Excellence. Current and future Western New England students will be the direct beneficiaries of the most ambitious fundraising effort in the university’s history. The number-one priority of the campaign is to increase student aid through donor-funded scholarships. In recent years, full-time undergraduate enrollment has grown to record levels, with more than 98% of students receiving financial aid through scholarships, grants, and loans. The university has already secured more than $29 million in new gifts and commitments to advance Western New England during the campaign’s pre-launch phase, which began in 2016. Lead gifts were made by two of the university’s most ardent supporters — Kevin Delbridge ’77 and Janet Johnson Bullard ’69, both university trustees who are serving as the campaign’s honorary chairpersons. To date, more than 4,000 individual alumni, friends, and foundations have made commitments. Each gift made to WNEU during the campaign counts toward its goal. This is Western New England’s second comprehensive campaign. Private philanthropic support is not intended to replace university sources of revenue, but rather provide the margin that enables greater access to scholarship support, state-of-the-art technologies, outside-the-classroom experiences, faculty development, and other critical learning services. For details about the Campaign for Our Second Century, visit wne.edu/campaign.

Community Chooses Recipients of Monson Savings Bank Philanthropy

MONSON — For the ninth year in a row, Monson Savings Bank asked the community to help plan the bank’s community giving activities by inviting people to vote for the organizations they would like the bank to support during 2019. The top vote getters include Wilbraham United Players, Scantic Valley YMCA, the Women’s Empowerment Scholarship Fund, Rick’s Place, River East School-to-Career, Greene Room Productions, Boy Scouts of Western Massachusetts, Link to Libraries, Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts, and Old Post Orchestra.

HealthSouth Rehab Hospital Unveils New Name, Brand

LUDLOW — HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Western Massachusetts has unveiled its new name and brand as part of its management company’s name change and rebranding initiative. As of Jan. 1, the inpatient rehabilitation hospital is known as Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Western Massachusetts. It will continue to provide the same post-acute care for patients overcoming a variety of major illnesses and injuries. Birmingham, Ala.-based HealthSouth Corp. launched its new name and brand on Jan. 1, 2018 and will be transitioning its 130 inpatient rehabilitation hospitals and 273 home-health and hospice locations serving 36 states and Puerto Rico through 2019. All of the company’s post-acute-care service locations in Massachusetts migrated to the Encompass Health name and branding last week.

Advocacy Network Donates $17,000 to Whole Children

HADLEY — The Advocacy Network, a local organization with a mission to promote and protect the health, human rights, and safety of people with developmental disabilities, recently donated $17,000 to Whole Children. The donation was one of the last acts of the group, which announced it is dissolving after more than 60 years of work. The late Benjamin Ricci, an Advocacy Network member, was the father of Belchertown State School patient Robert Ricci. He filed a class-action lawsuit against the school in 1972, claiming that its residents were living in horrific conditions. The judge assigned to the Belchertown case, Joseph Tauro, who died in November, spearheaded a major overhaul of Massachusetts’ state facilities as a result of the lawsuit, which ultimately ended in the closing of the institution. Amherst resident Bob Ricci, the man named in the lawsuit against Belchertown, came to Whole Children with members of the Advocacy Network to deliver the check to director Maggie Rice. Whole Children was started in 2004 by a group of parents looking for after-school programs for their children with intellectual disabilities or autism. It joined with Springfield-based Pathlight in 2010 and has expanded to serve some 600 adults, teens, and children each year in a variety of recreation, performing-arts, and enrichment programs.

SmartDollar Names OMG Inc. Company of the Year

AGAWAM — The statistics are alarming: 70% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. At work, stress over finances can take a toll on employee performance and impact productivity. Almost 10 years ago, OMG Inc. saw this as a factor limiting employee success and took action. OMG used SmartDollar, the financial-wellness program created by money expert and best-selling author Dave Ramsey, to teach employees how to take better care of themselves financially. More than 300 employees have taken advantage of the program to create a financial plan for themselves and their families. Using SmartDollar, the average OMG participant has paid off more than $8,000 in debt and saves more than $5,000. Collectively, participants have achieved a positive swing of almost $1 million through debt reduction and savings contributions. As a result, SmartDollar recognized OMG as its 2018 Company of the Year.

Company Notebook

White Lion Brewery Moving into Tower Square

SPRINGFIELD — White Lion Brewery has signed a long-term lease to occupy 10,000 square feet of space at the former Spaghetti Freddy’s location in Tower Square. The space was vacant for close to 15 years, but will now house a full-scale production and packaging facility with a taproom. Brewing equipment and mechanicals arrived at Tower Square on Dec. 20. The ownership at Tower Square has taken another step to show its commitment to the city of Springfield by becoming a strategic equity partner in White Lion. The agreement provides further support and financial assistance during the brewery’s growth. White Lion acquired its brewing, mechanical, and refrigeration systems from Rooster Fish Brewing out of Watkins Glen, N.Y. The system will allow White Lion to brew approximately 10,000 barrels, or in excess of 100,000 cases, of beer annually from the downtown Springfield location. The company expects to invest approximately $1 million in the project, which includes expanding its independent distribution model and hiring up to 20 employees. The brewery is expected to open in the spring of 2019.

TommyCar Auto Group Adds Volvo Franchise

SOUTH DEERFIELD — TommyCar Auto Group announced its ownership of the Volvo Cars Pioneer Valley dealership, formerly Pioneer Valley Volvo. Carla Cosenzi, president of TommyCar Auto Group, noted that Volvo Cars Pioneer Valley will bring amenities that all TommyCar Auto Group dealerships offer, including Click.Drive.Buy, a new way to buy a car online; TommyCard Rewards, through which customers can earn 15% back of every dollar they spend; and efforts to support the local community; the company has contributed more than $4 million to local organizations, schools, and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Volvo Cars Pioneer Valley will commemorate the new ownership with an “Eat.Meet. Greet” event on Wednesday, Jan. 16 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Customers can get an early look at the long-awaited 2019 Volvo S60, hors d’ouevres from Seth Mias Catering, cocktails from Hitchcock Brewing, and giveaways.

Dress for Success Receives $10K for Mentoring Program

SPRINGFIELD — Dress for Success Western Massachusetts received a donation of $10,000 in continued support of its Margaret R. Fitzgerald mentoring program. This program was initially launched with a $10,000 donation from this anonymous family member in 2017, and this new donation is intended to continue and expand the success of the mentoring program. Fitzgerald was a secretary in the Physics department at Mount Holyoke College in the 1970s. The only woman who worked in the department, she became a point of support for the students enrolled in the exclusively male-led department. Affectionately called ‘Mom’ by many of the women enrolled in the department, the students looked to her for advice, help, counsel, and encouragement. She was known to intervene with certain professors to advocate on behalf of students when there were issues or problems. She reminded students that they were clearing the way for future generations of scientists. Because of her, many of the women achieved advanced degrees from prestigious universities all over the world. Dress for Success Western Massachusetts is currently accepting applications for mentors interested in the Margaret R. Fitzgerald program. Contact Tantillo at (860) 638-8980.

Webster Bank Rated Best Overall Bank in Northeast

WATERBURY, Conn. — Webster Bank was named best overall bank in the Northeast in Bank Director’s annual RankingBanking study released late last month. The 2019 RankingBanking study identifies the top public U.S. retail and commercial banks between $10 billion and $250 billion in assets within each region — the South, the West, the Midwest, and the Northeast. In addition to placing first overall in the Northeast, Webster was also the top bank in the Northeast in three key categories: Best Technology Strategy, Best Board, and Best Small Business Strategy. The rankings were calculated using Bank Director’s proprietary algorithm, which incorporates more than 60 critical data points to measure banks’ relative strengths and weaknesses. The data points used were both qualitative and quantitative, including case studies and analyst opinions. Many factors went into Webster’s top rankings, including the bank’s high-level focus on digital banking and user experience, the diversity and expertise of its board, and its small-business loan growth and volume. “We also noted Webster’s robust selection of products and services tailored for small businesses, the fact that customers can apply for loan and deposit products online, and Webster’s ability to generate online loan decisions within 48 hours,” said Emily McCormick, Bank Director’s vice president of Research. Bank Director is a leading information resource for the directors and officers of financial institutions across the nation.

People’s United Foundation Gives $105,000 to Nonprofits

SPRINGFIELD — People’s United Community Foundation, the philanthropic arm of People’s United Bank, N.A., announced it awarded $105,000 to nonprofits located in Western and Central Mass. during its third grant cycle of 2018. Funding was allocated to 21 nonprofit organizations in support of activities that ranged from basic needs services and affordable-housing initiatives to education and workforce-development programs. Some of the grant recipients included the Literacy Project, the Gray House, YMCA of Greater Springfield, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Entrepreneurship for All, Roca, and Veterans Inc. In total, People’s United Community Foundation awarded $875,500 during its third grant cycle of 2018 to 171 organizations throughout the communities it serves in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The grants were disseminated in alignment with the foundations’ three areas of focus, including 43% to community and economic development, 37% to youth development, and 20% to affordable-housing initiatives. For a detailed list of organizations that People’s United Community Foundation supported during the final grant cycle of 2018, visit www.pucf.org.

Holyoke Community College Celebrates Success of Arrivals from Puerto Rico

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College recently celebrated the success of 30 evacuees who left Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and have just completed a five-month program to help them improve their English literacy skills, adjust to life on the U.S. mainland, and find jobs. The celebration and recognition ceremony was held on Dec. 20. The festivities included a feast of traditional Puerto Rican food for participants, their families, and program staff. The Puerto Rican New Arrivals Program started July 23. The HCC division of Business and Community Services offered the free ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) program specifically for residents of Puerto Rico who left the island after the devastation of Hurricane Maria in September 2017 and relocated to Western Mass. The classes were held Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and funded through a National Dislocated Worker grant administered by the MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board in partnership with the MassHire Holyoke and MassHire Springfield career centers. The purpose of the program was to help individuals improve their English writing, speaking, and comprehension skills; adapt to U.S. culture; and successfully transition to jobs or continued educational opportunities. Classes included civic lessons from guest speakers including Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse and state Rep. Aaron Vega, who talked about local and state government.

Comcast Selected for Broadband Project in Town of Worthington

WESTBOROUGH — The Mass. Broadband Institute at MassTech (MBI) formally approved an award of $2.2 million to Comcast to support the construction of a broadband network in the town of Worthington. The grant, which was approved by both the MassTech Executive Committee and the MBI board of directors, followed a majority vote at Worthington’s town meeting in May choosing Comcast and supporting the construction of its advanced fiber network to deliver broadband to the town, including approval of a project coverage map. Comcast and Worthington also signed a formal cable franchise agreement on Dec. 11. The proposed broadband network will deliver expanded connectivity to more than 96% of Worthington’s residential and business premises once the project is complete. Under the grant agreement, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will provide an award of $2,213,809 from the Last Mile program, funds which will supplement Comcast’s capital investment in the construction of the Worthington network. The MBI will utilize Worthington’s original Last Mile allocation of $1,070,000, with the remaining funds coming from additional investments from both the Commonwealth and the town, utilizing an agreement which will allow the town to contribute year over year without having to use municipal bonds.

Smith Brothers Insurance Helps Local Children

EASTHAMPTON — Smith Brothers Insurance sponsored 25 children in need this holiday season and raised $5,000 for the 2018 Holiday Bear Project. For 12 straight years, Smith Brothers’ team members donated money and time for this annual gift-giving program for needy public-school children. Team members individually sponsored a child, donated money, and coordinated company fundraising activities. Hundreds of gifts were purchased and wrapped for students ranging in age from 5 to 17. More than 10,000 public-school students have benefited from the holiday program since the Holiday Bear Project began in 1998. The Smith Brothers team also conducted a toy drive for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and a food collection for a local food bank.