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Workforce Development

The Heat Is On

Springfield Operations Manager Meagan Greene

The culinary world is a notoriously challenging place to forge a career, and turnover at the entry level is often high, a problem that constantly challenges restaurants, hotels, colleges, and a host of other food-service companies. Enter Snapchef, which has built a regional reputation for training those workers and matching them with workforce needs to help them get a foot in the door — and then, hopefully, kick it in.

It’s called ‘backfilling.’

That’s a concept businesses in many area industries — from financial services to marketing, from security to hospitality — have been thinking about as MGM Springfield has ramped up its efforts to hire some 3,000 people for its August opening.

Backfilling, simply put, it’s the replacement of an employee who moves on to a different opportunity, and MGM has undoubtedly caused a wave of that phenomenon locally. Because of the casino’s food-service operations, area restaurants, hotels, and other facilities that prepare and serve food have been doing quite a bit of backfilling as well.

If they can find adequate replacements, that is. That’s where Snapchef, a regional food-service training company that opened up shop in Springfield last year, can play a key role.

CEO Todd Snopkowski, who founded Snapchef 16 years ago, said the business model has proven successful in its other four locations — Boston, Dorchester, Worcester, and Providence, R.I. — and has found fertile ground in the City of Homes, where the need for restaurant workers has been on the rise.

“We train folks that are looking to make a career change,” he told BusinessWest. “And, being a staffing company, we don’t only train, we also match folks looking for work in the industry with jobs that are available. If they don’t have the skills to do a job, we actually train them, whether it be dishwashing, cooking, cheffing, you name it. We cover those bases and give them a foothold in the industry.”

As the largest culinary training and staffing company in New England, Snapchef essentially trains and provides staffing help to area food-service establishments. Clients range from large colleges and universities and hospitals to food-service corporations; from hotels and corporate cafeterias to hotels and restaurants.

We train folks that are looking to make a career change,” he told BusinessWest. “And, being a staffing company, we don’t only train, we also match folks looking for work in the industry with jobs that are available. If they don’t have the skills to do a job, we actually train them, whether it be dishwashing, cooking, cheffing, you name it. We cover those bases and give them a foothold in the industry.”

“If they come to me with little or no skills or just want to brush up, we guide individuals in that track,” said Meagan Greene, operations manager in Springfield, noting that Snapchef’s 13-week courses include fast-track culinary training, ServSafe food handling, and workplace safety, among other offerings.

“When the finish the apprentice program, we try to find them full-time jobs, where they can utilize their skills in the workforce,” she went on, noting that all of that is free. The training programs are grant-funded, while Snapchef’s partner employers pay for the hours the employee works, while SnapChef pays the employee directly, with pay depending on the position.

This isn’t culinary school, Greene stressed, but a place to learn enough to get into the culinary world, and advance career-wise from there — an idea Greene called “earning and learning.”

“We go over soups, stocks, sauces, emulsions, salad bar, deli prep. Sometimes, people will go out into the field, come back, and say, ‘hey, Meagan, I did this today at work; is there a better way to do it?’ We also do a little bit of baking, which isn’t our specialty, but you’ll learn how to make pies, quick breads, muffins, and danishes.”

The need for culinary workers, especially at the entry level, is constant, Greene noted, sometimes year-round and sometimes seasonally — for example, colleges need help between September and May, while Six Flags requires a wave of help between April and October.

“For some of the colleges, this will be their second school year with us, so they may buy out some of our employees because they liked them last year,” she told BusinessWest. “It’s kind of bittersweet for us, because the people who get bought out or move forward or find their own job — those are your keepers. Those are the ones who show up for work every day, people who are clean and on time and ready to rock. I’m like, ‘noooo!’ But it’s nice to see somebody move forward.”

Moving forward, after all, is what it’s all about once that foot is in the door.

Slow Burn

Snopkowski has grown Snapchef from its original home Dorchester into a regional force that has trained thousands of workers for potentially rewarding careers in what is, admittedly, a tough field to master, and one where good help is valuable.

Clients have ranged from individual restaurants and caterers to Foxwoods Resort Casino and Gillette Stadium, as well as large food-service corporations like Aramark, Sodexo, and the Compass Group.

Snapchef CEO Todd Snopkowski

Snapchef CEO Todd Snopkowski

“With my background, being a corporate chef, I saw the need for an organization like Snapchef 25 years ago. And I think there’s a huge opportunity down the road for even more expansion,” said, noting that MGM Springfield itself poses significant opportunity. “We’re supporting them, and for businesses suffering the loss of people taking these awesome jobs MGM has to offer, we’re there to make sure we backfill the vacancies.”

Snapchef’s growth has led to a number of accolades for Snopkowski, including the 2015 SBA Small Business Person of the Year award for Massachusetts, and the 2016 Citizens Bank Good Citizens Award. And it has inspired people like Greene, who see the value in training the next generation of food-service workers.

She works with the state Department of Labor and the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County to create apprenticeship models, teaching participants everything from basic knife skills to how to conduct themselves in a kitchen. She also helps them append their résumés based on what they’ve learned.

After studying culinary arts at a vocational high school and earning three degrees from Johnson & Wales University, she became a sous chef at Sturbridge Host Hotel, not far from her home in Warren. She loved the job — and the commute — but traded it in for an opportunity to work for Snapchef.

“To be honest, I’m never bored. I’m always doing something different,” she said, and that’s true of many of her trainees, who typically begin with temporary placements, which often become permanent. But not all are seeking a permanent gig, she added; some love the variety of ever-changing assignments.

“Some people love it because it’s a lifestyle for them,” she said. “They want to work over here, then they come back to me and say, ‘hey, Meagan, I wasn’t really liking that spot; I don’t want to go back there. I didn’t like the size of the kitchen. It was too big for me; I’m used to working in a smaller kitchen.’” I’ll say, ‘OK, I’ll try not to send you back there.’ And it’s a two-way street; clients can say, ‘I don’t want Joe Smith back.’”

Because the training is free, Snapchef offers an attractive opportunity for people who want to get a food in the door in food service.

Finishing Touches

As a company that fills a needed gap — as culinary schools aren’t typically training for entry-level positions — Snopkowski said Snapchef has made significant inroads in Western Mass. over the past year, especially working with FutureWorks Career Center to identify individuals looking to shift into the world of food service.

“Our employees don’t have to pay for transition training and all those attributes that are needed to get a foothold in the business,” he told BusinessWest. “It’s good to see that MGM recognizes it, the colleges as well.”

Speaking of financial perks, Snapchef-trained employees may access round-trip transportation from the Springfield office to their job sites across the region, for only $3 per day, Greene said. “It’s cheaper than Uber, cheaper than Lyft, and better than having your mom come pick you up and drop you off. If you live in the city and are used to taking the bus everywhere, you don’t have to worry about how to get to work.”

As for Greene, she continues to enjoy the variety of her work — a pickling enthusiast, she taught a recent class how to pickle vegetables, and they prepared 300 jars worth — as well as the success stories that arise from it, like a man trained by Snapchef who went on to further his education at Holyoke Community College and is now opening a restaurant with his daughter.

“I’ve had the opportunity to see people progress in a short period of time,” she said. “It’s nice to see someone grow so fast. I love that.”

Snopkowski has seen plenty such stories unfold in the 16 years his company has been training people for a new, challenging career, and then helping them build a foothold in the industry.

“We’ve only been able to scratch the surface; there are so many other opportunities out there,” he said. “The future is bright in culinary.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Cover Story Restaurants Sections

2018 Restaurant GuideThe region’s bevy of restaurants comprises one of the area’s most intriguing business sectors, one in which there is constant movement, new additions, and exciting stories unfolding. This year is no exception, and BusinessWest captures that movement, that excitement, in its annual Restaurant Guide.

 

 

There’s More Growth on the Menu

Bean Group has a number of intriguing plans coming to a boil

 

Taste of Italy

West Springfield’s bNapoli melds big-city style with local flavor

 

Who’s Cooking

A list of the area’s largest restaurants

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Senior Vice President, Wells Fargo Bank; Age 38; Education: BA, University of Texas at Austin

Ben Leonard

Ben Leonard

Leonard is a 17-year veteran of Wells Fargo and currently a senior vice president in the bank’s Middle-Market Group, based in Springfield. He is responsible for leading Wells Fargo’s growth in Western Mass. An active member of the community, he is on the board (co-vice chair) of Revitalize CDC, and is a regional ambassador for the New England AFP. He is also the New England Division ambassador for the bank’s Women’s Market Growth Initiative. Leonard lives in Hadley with his wife, 2-year-old daughter, Ida Belle, and their great dane, Doc. Raised in Hawaii, he enjoys playing ukulele with his daughter, as well as motorcycling, snowboarding, and brewing beer.

What did you want to be when you grew up? An automotive journalist.

How do you define success? I see success as a mindset where you enjoy regularly pushing against and expanding the limits of your potential. It may just be the last effort in a 5K or putting yourself out there to speak to a large group, but some of the most rewarding moments for me have come when I pushed myself beyond my own previously set limitations.

What three words best describe you? Loyal, honest, hilarious.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? Find a way to laugh. You never know what the day might throw at you to disrupt your best-laid plans. However, on the days when I can maintain a light heart, I’m better able to appreciate the highs, and the lows seem a little less severe.

What do you like most about Western Massachusetts? Balance. We have the perfect mixture of big-city culture, music, museums, and restaurants, combined with rural natural beauty and small-town social connectivity.

What are you passionate about? Transparency. With colleagues, I believe honesty in how decisions are made is very important. I have great respect for those who are generous with information, and make a point to help others avoid wasting time on paths previously explored. With clients, transparency in pricing and what you can and can’t do is necessary and rewarded in the long term. With family, open communication is paramount as well. I’m for just about anything that improves efficiency and trust.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? Wall-E. He’s a hopeless romantic surrounded by consumerism and technological dependence, but, against the odds, he transcends what he’s programmed to do.

Whom do you look up to, and why? My partner, Rebecca. She is honest, loving, confident, hardworking, well-read, and thoughtful. She’s not driven by ego, not impressed by superficial things, and the best role model a little girl and her dad could have. I and many others are better people from being around her.


Photography by Leah Martin Photography

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Loan Originator, Applied Mortgage; Age 28; Education: BA, UMass Commonwealth College; MBA, Western New England University

Lindsay Barron

Lindsay Barron

A proud Western Mass. native, Barron was raised, educated, and currently lives and works in Hampshire County. Her career in the mortgage industry provides a unique view of the economy. Having built a network of peers, clients, partners, and friends, she strives to nurture those connections to enable collaboration to achieve common, community-oriented goals. She is also committed to working with the next generation of leaders. Barron volunteers on committees for various fundraising events, serves on the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce board, is a founding board member of Young Professionals of Amherst, and is campaign co-chair for United Way of Hampshire County.

What did you want to be when you grew up? An adult. Seriously! I have been dying to be 30 since I knew what 30 was, and here I (almost) am.

How do you define success? To me, there are many categories of success — family, career, overall comfort in life. I guess, at the end of it all, I define success as the number of people who remember how you positively influenced their life in one way or another.

What three words best describe you? Goal-oriented, efficient, planner.

What do you like most about Western Massachusetts? We have it all: the hometown feel, amazing restaurants, access to healthcare and education, and beautiful natural attractions.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? My parents. They are an amazing team who support me in anything and everything I want to do and encourage me to be the best I can be every day.

What actress would play you in a movie about your life? Apparently, Mandy Moore, because someone just stopped me in the store and said I look like her — but I haven’t heard that before!

What are you passionate about? Family, friends, work, and maintaining a vibrant economy here in Western Mass. We are all in this together. Our community is as good as those around us, and helping each other helps everyone.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? My Grandma Joan. I didn’t get to know her past my young childhood, and I would love to have a chat with her now as an adult.

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

An aerial view of the Village Commons

An aerial view of the Village Commons, which is at full occupancy, and has been for most of this century.

When Andy Yee talks about South Hadley, he speaks from experience.

All kinds of experience.

He grew up there, went to high school there, lives there still, and now watches his children’s high-school games there. He also does business there — quite a bit of it, actually.

He owns a number of restaurants in that community, including Johnny’s Bar & Grill and Johnny’s Tap Room, both named after his late father, as well as IYA Sushi & Noodle Kitchen, all located in the Village Commons, across College Street from Mount Holyoke College, as well as a bar called the Halfway House Lounge on Summit Street. He described that establishment as the ‘Cheers’ of South Hadley, meaning everyone there knows your name.

They also know the story of how the tavern got its name, which Yee was more than willing to share.

“Back in the day, there was a trolley system running from South Hadley Falls up to the college, and that was the halfway point, the halfway station,” he explained. “It’s a fun little place. We all grew up there; at some point, almost every resident has stopped at the Halfway House.”

Yee told that story to convey the strong sense of continuity that exists in this Hampshire County community, and how many things haven’t changed since the Halfway House started serving pints soon after Prohibition ended more than 80 years ago.

But many things have changed, and for evidence, one need only look further down Newton Street, to one of Yee’s latest entrepreneurial ventures.

He’s one of the principals — Peter Pan Chairman and CEO Peter Picknelly and Rocky’s Hardware President and CEO Rocco Falcone are the others — in a closely watched development at the so-called Woodlawn Plaza, former home to Big Y but more recently a mostly vacant eyesore of sorts.

Retail centers of this type couldn’t be classified as easy money or even a particularly wise investment at this point given the way the retail sector is heading, but this group of entrepreneurs moved to acquire the plaza at auction because of confidence in their abilities to bring new life to it, and also confidence in South Hadley itself.

“You can’t buy properties like this unless they come for sale at the right price,” said Yee, adding that there’s a reason this site was available at auction. “We see this as a good investment, and we have some great partners with great business savvy. We’re not going to sit idle on this property; there’s going to be something unique there for all to enjoy.”

This confidence results from historically steady results in South Hadley when it comes to retail and business in general, but also many recent developments that have secured the community’s place as a reputation of sorts when it comes to everything from outdoor activities to fine dining.

Take the Village Commons, for example. It’s at 100% occupancy, essentially, and has been since roughly the start of this century, said Jeff Labrecque, the facility’s chief operating officer.

“We have very, very little turnover, and when something does turn over, we usually fill it very quickly,” he said before getting his point across by noting that O’Connell Care at Home will be moving its headquarters there in several weeks, quickly claiming a 1,900-square-foot space vacated by River Valley Dental after a consolidation of that operation.

O’Connell’s move brings still more diversity to the Commons, which already had a good amount of it, said Labrecque, adding that it’s home to restaurants and bars, high-end apartments that are in demand (he says there are maybe 50 people on a waiting list, and some have been on it for years), many health and beauty businesses, service agencies, a still-surviving independent bookstore, and a still-surviving two-screen movie theater.

All of this makes the Commons a true destination, he said.

The broader goal is to make South Hadley itself more of a destination, said all those we spoke with, adding that many pieces to this puzzle are in place, and more are coming together.

Range of Initiatives

Mike Sullivan is better known for his time spent serving the community on the other side of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge — he was mayor of Holyoke for a decade after owning and operating Nick O’Neil’s tavern — but he now resides (professionally speaking) at South Hadley Town Hall.

He’s been town administrator for several years, taking that position after serving the town of Maynard (famous as the home to Digital Equipment Corp., Monster.com, and later Curt Schilling’s ill-fated 38 Studios). In fact, Sullivan’s first day in Maynard was Schilling’s last, and he remembers the town being very upset and frustrated with losing the company, emotions that shifted went it quickly dissolved into bankruptcy. But that’s another story.

This one is about South Hadley, and Sullivan said it has achieved progress in many forms in recent years, including the broad realm of economic development, attracting new companies such as Mohawk Paper and E Ink Corp., and retaining others, such as South Hadley Fuel.

The town is also making headway with recreation-related initiatives such as a bike-share project and what he called the ‘river-to-range trail program,’ which, as that name suggests, is a handicap-accessible trail route that starts at Brunell’s Marina on the Connecticut River and connects to the Summit House in Hadley on Mount Holyoke.

South Hadley at a Glance

Year Incorporated: 1775
Population: 17,514
Area: 18.4 square miles
County: Hampshire
Residential AND COMMERCIAL Tax Rate: $19.93 (Fire District 1), $20.42 (Fire District 2)
Median Household Income: $64,610
Median Family Income: $76,679
Type of Government: Town Administrator, Town Meeting
Largest Employers: Mount Holyoke College, the Loomis Communities, Mohawk Paper
* Latest information available

Such initiatives bring more people to the town and thus the benefits that go with that visitation, he explained.

“These eco-tourism amenities in communities like South Hadley are becoming more and more important,” Sullivan said. “They feed restaurants and other businesses, like those at the Village Commons, like Brunell’s, like McCray’s Farm; we’re hoping that all of those benefit from our investment in the river-to-range trail.”

But easily the most-watched project in the community involves the Woodlawn Project on Newton Street, Route 116.

The goal is to create a mixed-use development, said Sullivan, adding that the town is working to create what’s known as a ‘40R,’ or Smart Growth Zoning Overlay District, at the site, which would allow for more flexibility with regard to both zoning and eventual development. That plan will go before town meeting later this spring.

The site, formerly home to a large Big Y and Food Mart before that, still has a few tenants and is anchored by a Rocky’s Hardware store, but is still largely vacant. The new owners have torn down the 65,000-square-foot former Big Y, have plans for a larger Rocky’s with a garden center, and are hoping to attract more retail at a time when that sector is clearly struggling, but also other types of tenants.

“Retail is struggling, with Toys R Us, BonTon, and other national chains going out,” said Yee, adding that, in many properties like the one on Newton Street, restaurants have become the main anchors.

Elaborating, he said that dining and entertainment businesses have played a major role in making a South Hadley a destination not only for those living in neighboring communities such as Granby, Holyoke, and Amherst, but for residents across the region and even beyond.

This is certainly in evidence at the Village Commons, which has always been a gathering spot, but it is now even more of a destination — because of its array of eateries, but also the diversity of ventures there.

Indeed, there are now more than 70 businesses with that address on their letterhead, and while all of them serve people living around the corner (or upstairs, when it comes to those with apartments in the complex), they are also drawing people from many surrounding communities into South Hadley.

The complex’s many restaurants are perhaps the main attraction, said Lebrecque, noting that there are now several of them. In addition to the Yee family’s offerings, there’s also Tailgate Picnot, Food 101 Bar & Bistro, New Main Moon Café, WOW Frozen Yogurt, and the Mexican restaurant Autentica.

This critical mass gives the Commons both diversity and drawing power, said Lebrecque, who drew comparisons, on some level, to the city of Northampton and its thriving downtown.

“We’ve become somewhat of a food and entertainment destination, just like Northampton,” he told BusinessWest. “That’s a thriving part of our business, and it brings people from all over to South Hadley.”

But retail is also thriving in the Commons, in part because of the foot traffic created by the entertainment options, he went on, citing, as one example, Moxy Boutique.

This is a relatively new addition — it arrived about a year ago — led by an entrepreneur who left a stable, successful situation in Suffield, Conn. for the Commons because of its destination status.

And there are others who would like to gain inclusion on the tenant directory, he went on, but there isn’t any space available.

“The retail is definitely making a thriving comeback — that’s something we’ve noticed over the last few years,” said Lebrecque. “For a number of years, it was hard to get retailers interested in space, but now we have people starting to knock on our door. We have a lot of people who would like to come to the Commons, but we just don’t have the space for them.”

Coming of Age

If that sounds like a good problem to have, it is.

Such a development means your facility — and the community — are in demand, a preferred landing spot, and a great place to live, work, and operate a business.

South Hadley is all of those things, and has been since people starting gathering at the Halfway House Lounge — long before it was called that.

The goal here is to become more of a destination — for businesses, families, outdoor enthusiasts, those looking for a boutique, and those looking for a new weed whacker.

And South Hadley is making strides toward being that destination.

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

DBA Certificates Departments

The following business certificates and trade names were issued or renewed during the months of April 2018.

AMHERST

Barbara L. Hawley, Attorney at Law
24 Dickinson St.
Barbara Hawley

DeJong Consulting
81 Pine Grove
Christene DeJong

Elisha Beaman House
12 Clifton Ave.
Tina Lalonde

Katherine Pfister, LICSW
48 North Pleasant St.
Katherine Pfister

La Boa Brava
92 Henry St.
Hannah Staiger

Peelle Leisure Enterprises
161 High St.
Paul Peelle, Diana Peelle

Southern Belle Pastry
34 Pomeroy Lane
Latasha Beckett

Yiddish Book Center
1021 West St.
Susan Bronson

BELCHERTOWN

KLP Builders
55 Greenwich Hill
Kirk Pisani

Old Fashion Cleaning & Handyman Services
38A Warren Wright St.
Aneta Rybicki

CHICOPEE

Chicopee High School Lacrosse
22 Sachem St.
Tammy Niedermeier, Tina Niedermeier

CSM Entertainment
77 Grattan St.
Christopher Kelleher

Felt to the Core
91 8th Ave.
Christine Laverdiere

STAR Mini Mart, LLC
51 Springfield St.
Eric Collazo

Touch of G. LaRose
208 Exchange St.
Gilmarys Marrero

DEERFIELD

Giving Circle Thrift Shop
55B Main St.
Susan Pratt-Tripp Memorial Foundation Inc.

EASTHAMPTON

Boucher-O’Brien Funeral Home
7 Pleasant St.
Thomas O’Brien III

Buri’s Generation HI & GC
31 Exeter St.
Belisario Buri

Payne and Picard Remodeling
122 Pleasant St.
Peter Payne Jr.

Zenful Cleaning
21 High St.
Yushan Zheng

EAST LONGMEADOW

Caitlin Lavin
280 North Main St., Suite 4
Caitlin Lavin

Dreamscape Design Landscaping
20 Somerset St.
Marco Basile

John DeSousa General Contractor
18 Dell St.
John DeSousa

Meadows Health Center
40 Crane Ave.
Muhammad Gul

HADLEY

Infinity Ed
245 Russell St.
Varna Nailc

Out of This World Cleaning
116 Rocky Hill Road
Lindsey St. Laurence

T-Mobile
367 Russell St.
Executive Cellular Phones Inc.

HOLYOKE

Bennion Kombucha
92 Race St.
Michael Bennion

Defining Moments Productions
42 Ogden St.
Joseph Hodgins

El Dugout de Gammy
134 High St.
Jesus Hernandez

Graphic Stop
50 Holyoke St.
Christopher Lombardi

Hillside Auto Sales
911 Main St.
Michael Krassler

Hothouse Farms
5B Appleton St.
Audrey Park, Lucas Wiggins

Hothouse Holyoke
5B Appleton St.
Audrey Park, Lucas Wiggins

KTG Construction
1180 Northampton St.
Kurt Garvery

T & Y Enteprises Inc.
1530 Northampton St.
Tamer Mahdy

Torres Flooring
83 Martin St.
Jose Torres

Voltscooter
56 Nonotuck St.
Kenneth Harstine

LONGMEADOW

JML Construction Services
152 Burbank Road
JML Construction Services

Matchmaking.world
73 Oakwood Dr.
Matchmaking.world

SafelyRetire.com
102 Woolworth St.
SafelyRetire.com

LUDLOW

A.K. Paint
9 Cady St., Apt. 7
Andrew Kessler

Bio Links of New England
438 Ventura St.
Leslie Lindsey

Bob Costa Electric
181 Wedgewood Dr.
Robert Costa

Jerry’s Roofing
572 Fuller St.
Gerald Brown

Precision Home Improvement
476 Fuller St.
Jon Schneider

RC Computers
51 Simonds St.
Richard Calento, Joanne Calento

NORTHAMPTON

Applied Mortgage
211 North St.
HarborOne Mortgage, LLC

Dapper Kitty
29 Butler Place
Melissa Goldsmith, Anthony Fonseca

Fitzwilly’s/Toasted Owl
21-23 Main St.
Fred Gohr

Gelb Gemological Consulting
4 Madison Ave.
Thomas Gelb

Gothic and Main
29 Butler Place
Anthony Fonseca, Melissa Goldsmith

Greg’s Auto Repair
442 Elm St.
Jeffrey Tenczar

Hasper and Associates
24 North Maple St., #1
Patricia Hasper

Kidstuff
90 Maple St.
Tami Schirch

MLMC
29 Butler Place
Melissa Goldsmith, Anthony Fonseca

Pear Tree Press Music Publishers
703 Fairway Village
Ronald Perera

Sally Staub Design
74 Audubon Road
Sally Piland Staub

Student Power Networks
37 Kensington Ave.
William Wimsatt

PALMER

Cardinal Custom Carpentry and Woodworking
21 Wilbraham St.
Angelina Dubovik

Cross Roads Institute Driving Safety
2045 Calkins Road
Brian Griffith, Julie Griffith

Dillon Childs, Electrician
3115 Main St.
Dillon Childs

SPRINGFIELD

Big Y Express #166
471 Cooley St.
Big Y Foods Inc.

Brown Mini Market
178 Oakland St.
Christopher Brown

Check 2 Cash
338 Belmont Ave.
Phuoc Thien Ho

Chinese Qi Gong Tui Na
1655 Boston Road
Zujin Chen

Chiro Pro Billers & Management
34 King St.
Maria Davila

Garcia Detailing
199 Fernbank Road
Richard Garcia

Goddess Goods
258 Main St.
Kalisha Davis

Goldy’s Affordable Landscaping
34 Langdon St.
Rodolfo Sanchez

The Green Team
198 East Allen Ridge Road
James Bazinet

Hegartees
11 Balfour Dr.
Joseph Hegarty

International Auto Sales
715 Liberty St.
Tina DePergola

Jetmar Trucking
80 Harkness Ave.
Jose Torres

Kenia Hair Center
219 Berkshire Ave.
Kenia Torres

Lavigne Cleaning Machine
67 Hall St.
Michael Lavigne

Lozada’s Auto Sales
86 Boston Road
Daniel Lozada

The Markets at Eastfield
1685 Boston Road
William Bullock

Northeast Lawn and Shrub
25 Manchester Terrace
Donald LeBlanc

PJB Home Improvement
67 Lang St.
Paul Babiec

Pac One
46 Tinkham Road
Justin Cotton Jr.

Rhino Linings of Springfield
50 Verge St.
Michael Dancy

Roussel and Sons Masonry
59 Jamaica St.
Joshua Roussel

Timminy Press
61 Adams St.
William Dusty

Top Notch 2
538 Page Blvd.
Shawn Jones

Touch of Class Boutique
1655 Boston Road
Owen Bewry

Uno Chicago Grill
1722 Boston Road
Uno Restaurants, LLC

WESTFIELD

Crack Attack Sealcoating
419 West Road
Justin Boisseau

Elegant Home Improvement
3 Scarfo Dr.
Viachaslau Khivuk

Heritage Auto Transport
1 Roderick Dr.
Nathan Charette

Ken’s Appraisal Service
3 Crawford Dr.
Kenneth McCoubrey

PMJ Builders
57½ Montgomery St.
Peter Pienkowski Sr.

Westfield’s Fallen Heroes
1 First Ave.
Westfield’s Fallen Heroes

WEST SPRINGFIELD

Cassie Roche, MS, LMHC
425 Union St.
Cassie Roche

Classic Burgers Inc.
1261 Westfield St.
Barry Parker

Expo Liquors
1122 Memorial Ave.
West Side Spirits

The Help to Retire Group
181 Park Ave.
HTR Group N.E., LLC

King Pizza
1440 Memorial Ave.
Enes Inc.

Lincare Inc.
51 Park Ave.
Susan Yanush

Majestic Theater
131 Elm St.
Todd Cadis

Pleasant Valley Real Estate
865 Memorial Ave.
Nicholas Katsoulis

Potterville Pottery
1702 Riverdale St.
Laura Frasco

Precision Components Group
190 Doty Circle
Peter Elias

Sorrento’s Pizza of West Springfield
660 King’s Highway
Pasquale Albano

Spartan Auto Care Center
865 Memorial Ave.
Nicholas Katsoulis

Spartan Auto Sales
78 Lowell St.
Nicholas Katsoulis

WILBRAHAM

Better Days Counseling
8 Federal Lane
Jessica Senecal-Bennett

DES Woodworking
103 Manchonis Road
Dustin Smith

Elevation by Lattitude
859 Stony Hill Road
CCW Catering, LLC

Excel Training Institute Inc.
4 Stony Hill Road
Rebecca Paquette

Chamber Corners Departments

1BERKSHIRE
www.1berkshire.com
(413) 499-1600

• April 18: Good News Business Salute, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by Berkshire Hills Country Club, 500 Benedict Road, Pittsfield. Join us for our morning breakfast, where we will honor members and announce the winner of this year’s Esther Quinn Award. Cost: $35-$45. Register online at www.1berkshire.com.

• April 26: Creative Resources Conference, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., hosted by Stationery Factory, 63 Flansburg Ave., Dalton. The format has three tracts, with a total of nine workshops for creatives, entrepreneurs, and small businesses. More information to come. Register online at www.1berkshire.com.

AMHERST AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.amherstarea.com
(413) 253-0700

• April 26: Margarita Madness, 5:30-7:30 p.m., hosted by Lord Jeffery Inn, 30 Boltwood Ave., Amherst. Come taste margaritas and vote for your favorite. There will also be delicious dishes from participating restaurants and dozens of great raffle prizes. Cost: $30 pre-registered, $40 at the door. Register online at www.amherstarea.com.

FRANKLIN COUNTY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.franklincc.org
(413) 773-5463

• April 20: Monthly Breakfast Series, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by Greenfield High School, 21 Barr Ave., Greenfield. Full breakfast will be served during the program, which will feature an Entrepreneur of the Year panel. Sponsored by Franklin County Community Development Corp. and the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board. Cost: $13 for members; $16 for non-members. Register at franklincc.org or by e-mailing [email protected]

• April 26: Business After Hours, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center, 289 Main St., Greenfield. Networking event with special guest Sue Dahling Sullivan from Massachusetts ArtWeek. Come kick off the debut of ArtWeek in Western Mass. Refreshments and cash bar will be available. Cost: $10. Register at franklincc.org or by e-mailing [email protected]

GREATER CHICOPEE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.chicopeechamber.org
(413) 594-2101

• April 19: Business After Hours: A Salute to the ’70s Disco Party, 4:30-6:30 p.m., hosted by Ohana School of Performing Arts. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• April 24: B2B Speed Networking, 8-9 a.m., hosted by Chicopee Boys and Girls Club. For more information, visit chicopeechamber.org/events.

• April 25: Salute Breakfast at the Moose Family Center: “Easy, Cost-neutral Sustainability for Businesses,” 7:15-9 a.m. Chief Greeter: Phil Norman, CISA. Keynote: Center for EcoTechnology. Sponsored by United Personnel, Westfield Bank, Holyoke Medical Center, Polish National Credit Union, Gaudreau Group, Sunshine Village, Spherion Staffing Services, and PeoplesBank. Cost: $23 for members, $28 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

GREATER HOLYOKE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.holyokechamber.com
(413) 534-3376

• April 18: Chamber After Hours, 5-7 p.m., sponsored and hosted by Fairfield Inn & Suites, 229 Whiting Farms Road, Holyoke. Meet up with your friends and business associates for a little networking. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Feel free to bring a door prize. Sign up online at holyokechamber.com.

• April 20: Economic Development Breakfast, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by Holyoke Community College, Kittredge Center, PeoplesBank Conference Room. Learn from EMPATH about how to break the cycle of poverty and utilize the bridge to self-sufficiency theory to approach economic mobility. EMPATH helps low-income people achieve long-term economic mobility, and has developed a holistic approach to mentoring. Event emcees are Mary Coleman, EMPATH; Dr. Christina Royal, Holyoke Community College; and Kathleen Anderson, Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce. Cost: $25 for members, $30 for non-members and walk-in guests.

GREATER WESTFIELD CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.westfieldbiz.org
(413) 568-1618

• April 24: Home & Business Community Marketplace & Tabletop Event, 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by the Ranch Golf Club, 65 Sunnyside Road, Southwick. An opportunity to market and sell your products and services to area residents and businesses. Sip and shop your way through the marketplace with a beer and wine tasting, live music, and a chance to vote for your favorite nosh at the food court. Cost: $50 for vendor rental space (table not included; bring your own, six feet or less with tablecloth), $75 for vendor table (includes six-foot table; bring your own tablecloth). Attendance is free to the public. For more information, contact Southwick Economic Development at (413) 304-6100.

SOUTH HADLEY & GRANBY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.shgchamber.com
(413) 532-6451

• April 19: Business After 5, 4:30-6:30 p.m., hosted by Ohana School of Performing Arts, 470 Newton St., South Hadley. Sponsored by Berkshire Hills Music Academy. This Everything 70’s Disco Party is a networking event for members and friends of the chamber. We are joining with the Greater Chicopee Chamber of Commerce on this event, so there will be many new business colleagues to meet and greet over the three floors of studio space. The event will feature music, food, beverages, and dancing. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. For further information and to register, visit www.shgchamber.com or call the chamber office at (413) 532-6451.

• April 22: Mohegan Sun bus trip, 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Proceeds support the chamber’s scholarship fund and its two community Councils on Aging. There are bonuses on food and other pluses included in the cost. Bus departs from and returns to the former Big Y parking lot at 501 Newton St. Cost: $35. For further information and to register, visit www.shgchamber.com or call the chamber office at (413) 532-6451.

• April 24: An Educational Breakfast: “Cybersecurity: What We All Need to Know,” 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by PeoplesBank and Loomis Village, 20 Bayon St., South Hadley. We will learn how cybersecurity impacts our own lives, both personally and professionally. The presentation will be led by Joseph Zazzaro, senior vice president, Information Technology, and David Thibault, first vice president, Commercial Banking at PeoplesBank. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. For further information and to register, visit www.shgchamber.com or call the chamber office at (413) 532-6451.

SPRINGFIELD REGIONAL CHAMBER
www.springfieldregionalchamber.com
(413) 787-1555

• April 25: Beacon Hill Summit, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., day-long trip to the State House to meet legislators. Cost: $180 for members, $225 general admission, which includes transportation, lunch, and reception. To make a reservation, visit www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, e-mail [email protected], or call (413) 755-1310.

WEST OF RIVER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
www.ourwrc.com
(413) 426-3880

• April 26: Coffee with Agawam Mayor Sapelli, 8:30-10 a.m., hosted by Agawam Senior Center Coffee Shop, 954 Main St., Agawam. Join us for a cup of coffee and a town update from Mayor Bill Sapelli. Questions and answers will immediately follow. For more information, contact the chamber office at (413) 426-3880 or [email protected]

YOUNG PROFESSIONAL SOCIETY OF GREATER SPRINGFIELD
springfieldyps.com

• April 19: YPS Third Thursday: “Career Development & Networking,” 5-7 p.m., hosted by Lattitude Restaurant, 1338 Memorial Ave., West Springfield. Cost: free for YPS members, $10 for non-members.

Chamber Corners Departments

1BERKSHIRE

www.1berkshire.com

(413) 499-1600

• April 18: Good News Business Salute, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by Berkshire Hills Country Club, 500 Benedict Road, Pittsfield. Join us for our morning breakfast, where we will honor members and announce the winner of this year’s Esther Quinn Award. Cost: $35-$45. Register online at www.1berkshire.com.

• April 26: Creative Resources Conference, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., hosted by Stationery Factory, 63 Flansburg Ave., Dalton. The format has three tracts, with a total of nine workshops for creatives, entrepreneurs, and small businesses. More information to come. Register online at www.1berkshire.com.

AMHERST AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.amherstarea.com

(413) 253-0700

• April 26: Margarita Madness, 5:30-7:30 p.m., hosted by Lord Jeffery Inn, 30 Boltwood Ave., Amherst. Come taste margaritas and vote for your favorite. There will also be delicious dishes from participating restaurants and dozens of great raffle prizes. Cost: $30 pre-registered, $40 at the door. Register online at www.amherstarea.com.

FRANKLIN COUNTY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.franklincc.org

(413) 773-5463

• April 20: Monthly Breakfast Series, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by Greenfield High School, 21 Barr Ave., Greenfield. Full breakfast will be served during the program, which will feature an Entrepreneur of the Year panel. Sponsored by Franklin County Community Development Corp. and the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board. Cost: $13 for members; $16 for non-members. Register at franklincc.org or by e-mailing [email protected]

• April 26: Business After Hours, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center, 289 Main St., Greenfield. Networking event with special guest Sue Dahling Sullivan from Massachusetts ArtWeek. Come kick off the debut of ArtWeek in Western Mass. Refreshments and cash bar will be available. Cost: $10. Register at franklincc.org or by e-mailing [email protected]

GREATER CHICOPEE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.chicopeechamber.org

(413) 594-2101

• April 3: Chamber Seminar: “Pay Equity,” presented by Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast, 9-11 a.m, hosted by La Quinta Inn & Suites. Sponsored by Westfield Bank. Cost: $20 for members, $25 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• April 11: Multi-chamber Table Top Expo: “A Taste of Commerce,” 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by Bartley Center at Holyoke Community College. Table fee of $150 includes table, two entrance passes, a light supper, and parking. Admission: free with pre-registration only, $15 at the door. Sign up at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• April 19: Business After Hours: A Salute to the ’70s Disco Party, 4:30-6:30 p.m., hosted by Ohana School of Performing Arts. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

• April 24: B2B Speed Networking, 8-9 a.m., hosted by Chicopee Boys and Girls Club. For more information, visit chicopeechamber.org/events.

• April 25: Salute Breakfast at the Moose Family Center: “Easy, Cost-neutral Sustainability for Businesses,” 7:15-9 a.m. Chief Greeter: Phil Norman, CISA. Keynote: Center for EcoTechnology. Sponsored by United Personnel, Westfield Bank, Holyoke Medical Center, Polish National Credit Union, Gaudreau Group, Sunshine Village, Spherion Staffing Services, and PeoplesBank. Cost: $23 for members, $28 for non-members. Sign up online at chicopeechamber.org/events.

GREATER EASTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.easthamptonchamber.org

(413) 527-9414

• April 4: Networking by Night, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Suite3 in the Mill 180 Building, 180 Pleasant St., Easthampton. Sponsored by Suite3. Take your connection building to the next level when we partner with the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce on this Networking by Night event. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for future members. For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call the chamber office at (413) 527-9414.

• April 11: Multi-chamber Table Top Expo: “A Taste of Commerce,” 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by Bartley Center at Holyoke Community College. Friends and colleagues can come together for new networking opportunities and new features such as Made in Mass., Minute Clinic, and Food for Thought. Admission: free with online registration, $15 at the door. Table space is still available. For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call the chamber office at (413) 527-9414.

• May 10: Networking by Night, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Amy’s Place, 80 Cottage St., Easthampton. Sponsored by bankESB. There will be food and door prizes. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. For more information, visit www.easthamptonchamber.org or call the chamber office at (413) 527-9414.

GREATER HOLYOKE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.holyokechamber.com

(413) 534-3376

• April 4: Women in Leadership Series, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., hosted by HCC Culinary Arts Institute, 164 Race St., Holyoke. Join us April through July to learn from area CEOs while networking with your peers from the region. An elegant lunch prepared by students from the Holyoke Community College Culinary Arts program will provide the setting, which will create the opportunity for a meaningful dialogue on some key leadership issues for those building their careers. Each month your table will join one of the region’s leading CEOs.

• April 11: Multi-chamber Table Top Expo: “A Taste of Commerce,” 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by Bartley Center at Holyoke Community College. Presented by the Greater Holyoke, Greater Chicopee, Greater Easthampton, Greater Northampton, South Hadley/Granby, and Quaboag Hills chambers of commerce. Vendor tables cost $150. Admission: no charge with advance registration, $15 at the door. This event sells out. Call (413) 534-3376 or your local chamber to reserve a table.

• April 18: Chamber After Hours, 5-7 p.m., sponsored and hosted by Fairfield Inn & Suites, 229 Whiting Farms Road, Holyoke. Meet up with your friends and business associates for a little networking. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Feel free to bring a door prize. Sign up online at holyokechamber.com.

• April 20: Economic Development Breakfast, 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by Holyoke Community College, Kittredge Center, PeoplesBank Conference Room. Learn from EMPATH about how to break the cycle of poverty and utilize the bridge to self-sufficiency theory to approach economic mobility. EMPATH helps low-income people achieve long-term economic mobility, and has developed a holistic approach to mentoring backed by the latest brain science that busts through silos and combats chronic stress. Event emcees are Mary Coleman, EMPATH; Dr. Christina Royal, Holyoke Community College; and Kathleen Anderson, Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce. Cost: $25 for members, $30 for non-members and walk-in guests.

GREATER NORTHAMPTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.explorenorthampton.com

(413) 584-1900

• April 4: April Arrive @ 5, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Suite3 in the Mill 180 Building, 180 Pleasant St., Easthampton. Sponsored by Applied Mortgage, H&R Block, and MassDevelopment. A networking event. Cost: $10 for members.

• April 11: Protecting Your Data from Security Risks, 9-11 a.m., hosted by Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. CyberSafe is a two-hour workshop for non-technical users that focuses on using technology without compromising personal or organizational security. Students will learn the skills they need to protect digital data on computers, networks, mobile devices, and the Internet. They will learn how to identify many of the common risks involved in using technology, such as phishing, spoofing, malware, and social engineering, and then learn how to protect themselves and their organizations from those risks. Pre-registration is required, and space is limited. Cost: $25 for members, $35 for non-members. To register, visit goo.gl/forms/pX8YUuC25YdMsLjD2.

• April 11: Multi-chamber Table Top Expo: “A Taste of Commerce,” 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by Bartley Center at Holyoke Community College. A networking event. Cost: $150 for a table for members, $225 for a table for non-members, $10 walk-in fee for members.

• May 4: Annual Spring Swizzle, 6:30-10:30 p.m., hosted by Eastside Grill, 19 Strong Ave., Northampton. A networking event. Cost: $75; $100 for two. Purchase tickets at www.chamberspringswizzle.com.

• May 9: May Arrive @ 5, 5-7 p.m., host to be announced. Sponsored by Northeast Solar and the Lusteg Wealth Management Group – Merrill Lynch. A networking event. Cost: $10 for members.

• May 17: Workshop: “Microsoft Excel Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts,” 9-11 a.m., hosted by Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. This workshop will present our favorite tips, tricks, and shortcuts we have collected and developed over 20 years of teaching and using Microsoft Excel. Topics will include shortcuts for selecting ranges, using autofill to create a series of dates or numbers, setting the print area, using page-break preview, adding headers and footers, and using page-layout view. You’ll learn how to group spreadsheets in the same workbook in order to type or format more than one sheet at the same time, as well as how to create 3D formulas that calculate across several spreadsheets in the same workbook. Participants are encouraged to bring laptops and follow along with the instructor, but this is not required. Cost: $35 for members, $45 for non-members. Pre-registration required at goo.gl/forms/pX8YUuC25YdMsLjD2.

• June 6: June Arrive @ 5, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Glendale Ridge Vineyard, 155 Glendale Road, Southampton. Sponsored by Northeast Solar, MassDevelopment, and Kuhn Riddle Architects. A networking event. Cost: $10 for members.

• June 21: Workshop: “Microsoft Word: Advanced Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts,” 9-11 a.m., hosted by Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, 99 Pleasant St., Northampton. Presented by Pioneer Training. This workshop will go beyond the basics and explore some of Word’s more advanced features. You’ll learn how to use Word styles to make global changes to a document quickly and easily. The class will also cover working with templates to automate document creation. You’ll learn to use several of Word’s features for working with longer documents — adding a table of contents, inserting section breaks, inserting headers and footers, and inserting and modifying page numbers. Cost: $35 for members, $45 for non-members. Space is limited, and pre-registration is required at goo.gl/forms/pX8YUuC25YdMsLjD2.

GREATER WESTFIELD CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.westfieldbiz.org

(413) 568-1618

• April 2: April Mayor’s Coffee Hour, 8-9 a.m., hosted by the Arbors, 40 Court St., Westfield. Join us for our monthly Mayor’s Coffee Hour with Westfield Mayor Brian Sullivan. Event is free and open to the public. Register online at www.westfieldbiz.org so we may give our host a proper count. For more information, call Pam at the chamber at (413) 568-1618.

• April 11: WE2BA High School Career Fair, 7:45-11:30 a.m., hosted by Westfield State University at the Woodward Center, 395 Western Ave., Westfield. Don’t miss the chance to help shape our future through workforce development in our community. Join us to help inspire Westfield High School and Westfield Technical Academy students with career exploration. More than 400 students will be in attendance. We are looking for 75 vendors to participate. The vendor tables are free. Register online at www.westfieldbiz.org. For more information, call Pam at the chamber at (413) 568-1618.

• April 9: April After 5 Connection, 5-7 p.m., hosted by Betts Plumbing & Heating Supply Inc., 14 Coleman Ave., Westfield. Refreshments will be served. A 50/50 raffle will benefit the chamber scholarship fund. Bring your business cards and make connections. Cost: free for members, $10 for non-members (cash or credit paid at the door). Register online at www.westfieldbiz.org. For more information, call Pam at the chamber at (413) 568-1618.

• April 24: Home & Business Community Marketplace & Tabletop Event, 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by the Ranch Golf Club, 65 Sunnyside Road, Southwick. An opportunity to market and sell your products and services to area residents and businesses. Sip and shop your way through the marketplace with a beer and wine tasting, live music, and a chance to vote for your favorite nosh at the food court. Cost: $50 for vendor rental space (table not included; bring your own, six feet or less with tablecloth), $75 for vendor table (includes six-foot table; bring your own tablecloth). Attendance is free to the public. For more information, contact Southwick Economic Development at (413) 304-6100.

SOUTH HADLEY & GRANBY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.shgchamber.com

(413) 532-6451

• April 11: Multi-chamber Table Top Expo: “A Taste of Commerce,” 4:30-7 p.m., hosted by Bartley Center at Holyoke Community College. This business networking and marketing event, now in its 24th year, will provide business professionals and entrepreneurs an opportunity to promote their businesses — to “strut their stuff.” Tables are available for $150. Admission is free if you pre-register with the chamber or $15 at the door. Whether you plan to be a participating vendor or want to simply attend, go to www.shgchamber.com for more information or to register, or call (413) 532-6451.

• April 19: Business After 5, 4:30-6:30 p.m., hosted by Ohana School of Performing Arts, 470 Newton St., South Hadley. Sponsored by Berkshire Hills Music Academy. This Everything 70’s Disco Party is a networking event for members and friends of the chamber. We are joining with the Greater Chicopee Chamber of Commerce on this event, so there will be many new business colleagues to meet and greet over the three floors of studio space. The event will feature music, food, beverages, and dancing. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. For further information and to register, visit www.shgchamber.com or call the chamber office at (413) 532-6451.

• April 22: Mohegan Sun bus trip, 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Proceeds support the chamber’s scholarship fund and its two community Councils on Aging. There are bonuses on food and other pluses included in the cost. Bus departs from and returns to the former Big Y parking lot at 501 Newton St. Cost: $35. For further information and to register, visit www.shgchamber.com or call the chamber office at (413) 532-6451.

• April 24: An Educational Breakfast: “Cybersecurity: What We All Need to Know,” 7:30-9 a.m., hosted by PeoplesBank and Loomis Village, 20 Bayon St., South Hadley. We will learn how cybersecurity impacts our own lives, both personally and professionally. The presentation will be led by Joseph Zazzaro, senior vice president, Information Technology, and David Thibault, first vice president, Commercial Banking at PeoplesBank. Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. For further information and to register, visit www.shgchamber.com or call the chamber office at (413) 532-6451.

SPRINGFIELD REGIONAL CHAMBER

www.springfieldregionalchamber.com

(413) 787-1555

• April 4: [email protected], 7:15-9 a.m, hosted by Delaney House, One Country Club Road, Holyoke. Featuring the Mayor’s Forum with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt, and newly elected Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle, who will be interviewed by Western Mass News anchor Dave Madsen. Cost: $25 for members in advance ($30 at the door), $35 general admission ($40 at the door). To make a reservation, visit www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, e-mail [email protected], or call (413) 755-1310.

• April 5: Leadership Institute Graduation, 6 p.m., hosted by Springfield Sheraton, One Monarch Place, Springfield. Cost: $40 for members. To make a reservation, visit www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, e-mail [email protected], or call (413) 755-1310.

• April 25: Beacon Hill Summit, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., day-long trip to the State House to meet legislators. Cost: $180 for members, $225 general admission, which includes transportation, lunch, and reception. To make a reservation, visit www.springfieldregionalchamber.com, e-mail [email protected], or call (413) 755-1310.

WEST OF THE RIVER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

www.ourwrc.com

(413) 426-3880

• April 4: Wicked Wednesday, 5-7 p.m., hosted by CHD Cancer House of Hope, West Springfield. Wicked Wednesdays are monthly social events, hosted by various businesses and restaurants, that bring members and non-members together to network in a laid-back atmosphere. For more information about this event, contact the chamber office at (413) 426-3880, or register online at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

• April 12: Networking Lunch, noon to 1:30 p.m., hosted by Lattitude, West Springfield. Must be a member or guest of a member to attend. Enjoy a sit-down lunch while networking with fellow chamber members. Each attendee will get a chance to offer a brief sales pitch. The only cost to attend is the cost of lunch. Attendees will order off the menu and pay separately that day. We cannot invoice you for these events. Register online at www.westoftheriverchamber.com.

• April 26: Coffee with Agawam Mayor Sapelli, 8:30-10 a.m., hosted by Agawam Senior Center Coffee Shop, 954 Main St., Agawam. Join us for a cup of coffee and a town update from Mayor Bill Sapelli. Questions and answers will immediately follow. For more information, contact the chamber office at (413) 426-3880 or [email protected]

YOUNG PROFESSIONAL SOCIETY OF GREATER SPRINGFIELD

springfieldyps.com

• April 19: YPS Third Thursday: “Career Development & Networking,” 5-7 p.m., hosted by Lattitude Restaurant, 1338 Memorial Ave., West Springfield. Cost: free for YPS members, $10 for non-members.

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

Green Thumb Industries will soon begin operating a marijuana-cultivation operation in this mill building at 28 Appleton St. And it will likely be the first of several such operations in Holyoke.

Green Thumb Industries will soon begin operating a marijuana-cultivation operation in this mill building at 28 Appleton St. And it will likely be the first of several such operations in Holyoke.

Marcos Marrero says that if one were to have a machine running an optimization algorithm that would weigh a host of quantitative and qualitative factors to ultimately determine the very best spot in the region — and maybe the country — to locate a marijuana cultivation and distribution facility, it would, when done with its analysis, likely spit out two words: Holyoke and Massachusetts.

And that second word is necessary, he went on, because there is, in fact, a Holyoke in Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, and he’s already been asked more than a few times if he works for that small town of 5,000 people near the center of the Centennial State.

He doesn’t. He’s director of Planning and Economic Development for the other Holyoke, the one on the Connecticut River. The one heralded as one of the first planned industrial cities in the country. The one where Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries (TGI) is set to open an estimated $10 million marijuana-cultivation facility in former mill space on Appleton Street this spring.

And Marrero is fielding a lot of phone calls and e-mails these days from other people wanting to know more about that Holyoke, and marijuana cultivation is usually the reason (more on those inquiries later).

First, back to that algorithm. As noted, it would weigh a host of quantitative factors, said Marrero, and they all project strongly in Holyoke’s favor. These range from the roughly 1.5 million square feet of available, attractively priced mill space within the city, much of it ideal for marijuana cultivation because of the mills’ open spaces and high ceilings, to the lowest electricity rates in the state (this is a power-intensive business), to Holyoke’s location along I-91 and just off the Turnpike.

“You can ship it east, and you can ship it north,” said Marrero, adding quickly that there also qualitative factors to consider.

Or at least one big one, anyway. That would be the city’s welcoming attitude toward an industry that most communities in the Bay State are throwing stop signs and speed bumps in front of.

“Many cities and towns are taking out the pitchforks to prevent the cannabis industry from coming in,” said Holyoke’s mayor, Alex Morse. “Given my outspoken support for the industry, we’re seeing companies from across the country come into Holyoke to meet with us and my team about locations and learn more about our special-permit process. It’s been company after company that’s been looking to invest.”

But this cannabis phenomenon, if you will, is just part of the story. And it’s only one of the ways in which the city is succeeding with filling some its legendary and mostly idle or underused mills.

There are many others, starting with the Holyoke Community College MGM Culinary Arts Institute, which opened in the Cubit building (anther of those old mills) in January. There are also the market-rate apartments in the floors above that facility, and a host of other housing initiatives as well.

There are also arts-related facilities, such as Gateway City Arts on Race Street. And then, there are a growing number of startups, mentored by groups like SPARK, that are also moving into those mills.

All this, or most all of it (the marijuana law was passed in 2016), was part of Morse’s vision when he became mayor in 2012, and also why he’s still mayor today, having been re-elected to a four-year term (the city’s first) last fall. Back when he first ran for office, he explained, he saw enormous potential for the city to become home to a wide array of businesses and to become an attractive residential address as well after decades when it clearly wasn’t.

The formula called for a host of public investments — they’ve come in many forms, from a new canal walk to a new train depot to a slew of road projects — that would in turn encourage private investments (such as the Cubit building and GTI, for example). There would also be a focus on building the cultural economy, encouraging entrepreneurship, and maximizing Holyoke’s many geographic and historical assets.

In short, it’s all coming together nicely, as we’ll see in this, the latest installment of BusinessWest’s Community Spotlight series.

Joint Ventures

When asked to put all that aforementioned interest in Holyoke on the part of cannabis enterprises, or would-be cannabis enterprises, into perspective, Marrero let out a deep breath.

“The last couple of weeks have been … crazy,” he told BusinessWest. “There’s been lots of meetings and phone calls. Some of them are companies that are just shopping around and don’t necessarily know everything about Holyoke, but they may be looking in the Western Mass. corridor. But they’ve heard about us and want to know more.”

And it’s been crazy for a reason, actually several of them, as noted at the top.

“We believe we have the best competitive advantages for the industry at this time,” Marrero explained, “from the real estate to the low-cost electricity — those lights are on a lot — to the water. Holyoke has a lot of offer these businesses.

“And in Mayor Morse, you have the first mayor to come out and quite vocally support legalizing marijuana, recreationally and medically, and that certainly makes a difference,” he went on, adding that the city had one of the first ordinances in the state regulating, but also, and in many ways, welcoming the industry.

“So there’s some political stability — there’s a willingness and a desire to have this industry here,” Marrero continued, adding that all this caught the attention of GTI, which is now permitted to operate a facility on 42,000 square feet of former mill space at 28 Appleton St.

The company plans to hire about 100 people within the next year, said Morse, adding that, while not all of these are skilled positions, per se, these will be attractive positions with wages averaging $15 or more.

“When GTI held its first job fair last fall, there were more than 700 people in the room,” he recalled. “And that sends a strong message to other elected leaders in this city and also the community that people are looking for jobs, they’re willing to get trained, and they want to work.”

The Cubit building, home to apartments and the Holyoke Community College MGM Culinary Arts Institute, is just one example of how Holyoke’s historic mills are being put to new and productive uses.

The Cubit building, home to apartments and the Holyoke Community College MGM Culinary Arts Institute, is just one example of how Holyoke’s historic mills are being put to new and productive uses.

Meanwhile, there are many other entities looking to join GTI, said Marrero, adding that there are at least six businesses expressing what he called “serious” interest and moving toward the permitting stage, and perhaps a dozen more that are kicking the tires and filling Marrero’s voice mailbox.

How many will eventually land in Holyoke obviously remains to be seen, but Marrero and Morse both believe the cannabis sector could soon employ hundreds in the Paper City and bring additional benefits as well in the form of supporting businesses that will also pay taxes and employ area residents.

“Once you have a clustering effect of any industry, you have a subsequent clustering effect of any industry that supports that sector, and that could benefit not only Holyoke but surrounding communities,” Marrero explained. “If we had 10 cannabis-growing companies, not only would that translate into a large amount of jobs, tax revenue, and more, but then those 10 companies are going to be demanding services from pipe fitters, electricians, those who maintain HVAC systems, transportation and logistics companies, security companies, etc.; you have a second tier of expertise that is developed in the economy to support them.”

This is what has happened in Colorado (he’s not sure about the community of Holyoke) and other states where marijuana has been legalized, he went on, adding that the Holyoke in Massachusetts has the opportunity to learn from the mistakes made by others before it, and there have been some.

Run of the Mills

While the cannabis industry starts to fill in that section of the canvas that is a changing Holyoke, other businesses are finding the city as well, and the vision that Morse put in place at the start of this decade is coming into focus.

That vision involved embracing the city’s industrial past as a paper and textile hub, but also recognizing that this was in the past and that the community had to develop new sources of jobs and tax revenue while also revitalizing a downtown that had seen much better days.

The strategy for doing all that, as noted earlier, is multi-faceted.

“We’ve been pursuing an innovation-based economic-development strategy and coupling that with a public-investment strategy,” the mayor explained. “We’ve made a number of investments that have made the city a more attractive place for private investment and incentivising developers to come in; they’ve recognized that the city is making investments in itself to make it a more liveable, walkable community, especially in the downtown, and they’re responded to that.”

There’s been a housing strategy as part of that broader plan, he went on, adding that housing is obviously key to attracting businesses and the people who would work for them.

The goal is to create a dense, diverse inventory of housing, Morse went on, adding that the city is making strides in this regard with market-rate projects such as the Cubit building, mixed-use projects such such as a Wynn Development initiative at the former Farr Alpaca Mills on Appleton Street, and public housing efforts such as the ongoing, 167-unit Lyman Terrace project.

As for those public investments, they have come in many forms, including the canal walk and train station, but also a number of parks and neighborhoods. The effect has been to make the city a more attractive option for businesses, but also families, said the mayor.

“We’re not of the philosophy that one big corporate giant is going to arrive in Holyoke and solve all our problems — we have a much more long-term view of sustainable economic development,” he explained. “We’re focused on the innovation economy, but also entrepreneurship and small-business development, through initiatives such as SPARK.”

There have been more than 80 ‘graduates’ of that program of mentoring and education, run by the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, he went on, adding that some of them are either incubating in Holyoke or have already moved into their own space within the city.

Holyoke at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1786
Population: 40.280
Area: 22.8 square miles
County: Hampden
Residential Tax Rate: $19.17
Commercial Tax Rate: $39.72
Median Household Income: $36,608
Median Family Income: $41,194
Type of Government: Mayor, City Council
Largest Employers: Holyoke Medical Center, Holyoke Community College, ISO New England Inc., PeoplesBank, Universal Plastics, Marox Corp.
* Latest information available

Meanwhile, there are other forms of progress to note across the city, said Morse, listing everything from a rising high-school graduation rate — it was under 50% when he took office, and now it’s closer to 70% — to falling unemployment; from planned revitalization of the former Lynch School just off I-91 (an RFP was recently issued) to needed evolution at the Holyoke Mall.

The mall is one of the city’s important assets, he noted, adding that it brings thousands of people into the city every day. With the retail sector struggling in the wake of emerging forces like Amazon, and malls fighting to keep their spaces filled, the facility in Holyoke is responding with family-oriented tenants that are keeping the parking lots crowded, said the mayor.

“We’ve seen the mall make a number of investments in recent years and add more entertainment options,” he explained. “These include new restaurants, an escape-room place, and a new Cinemark theater that will be coming in.”

As for the graduation rate and improvement at the public schools overall, this is an important ingredient in the overall strategy for Holyoke’s revitalization, said the mayor.

And with continued progress in mind, the city will launch a new high-school model this fall, one based on four different academies focused on career readiness to create more pathways for students.

Planting Seeds

As he talked about cannabis — and everything else going on in Holyoke — Morse joked that Holyoke might soon run out of mill space to offer developers.

When told about that line, Marrero laughed, paused for a second, and said simply, “I hope so — that would be great.”

That’s not likely to happen any time soon, if ever. But that number of available square feet in the mills that gave Holyoke its nickname and its heritage keeps going down.

And cannabis is just one of the reasons. Many of the same character traits that are attracting marijuana growers — from the mills to the highways to a business-friendly City Hall — are attracting other types of businesses as well.

As noted, Morse couldn’t exactly have foreseen the cannabis industry being one of his city’s leading employers when he took office. But he could foresee a time when his staff and the office of Planning and Economic Development would be flooded with calls from people interested in maybe setting up shop in Holyoke.

And not the one in Colorado.

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

Home Builders Landscape Design Sections

Something to Build On

Gisele Gilpatrick says her family’s business, Pro-Tech Waterproofing in Chicopee, typically garners about six months’ worth of business from the Western Mass. Home & Garden show — just not all at once.

“They’ll take our information, but they won’t always call next week,” said Gilpatrick, Pro-Tech’s office manager and the chair of the 64th annual Home & Garden show, slated for March 22-25. “They’ll say, ‘we saw you six months ago, or a year ago, or two years ago. I pulled out your card, because I have a problem now.’”

That’s the value for many of the 350-plus vendors who will set up shop at the Eastern States Exposition on March 22-25. Among those showcasing their products and services will be builders, remodelers, kitchen and bath specialists, landscapers, painters, roofers, financial institutions, pool companies, and more.

“It’s a good chance for people to talk to us one on one about their situation,” Gilpatrick said. “Sometimes it’s easier to visualize things when you talk with someone in person, and people are more comfortable explaining what they need. Sometimes, people think it’s a major project and it’s not, while other times we have to tell them it is major.”

Either way, it’s easy to find answers — and second, third, and fourth opinions — with so many businesses on hand. For that reason and others, the annual event has become the signature showcase for the Home Builders & Remodelers Assoc. of Western Massachusetts, which produces it.

The home show started as a way to generate revenue to support the association, but it also provides member companies with a chance to market to an audience — and a big one, with around 20,000 visitors over the four days in a typical year — that might not otherwise see their name. Conversely, it gives attendees, many of whom simply come to the show for fun, a host of concrete (sometimes literally) ideas for home improvement.

The exhibitors — in more than 90 different categories — run the gamut from inspection services to security and alarm systems; Internet and communications to moving and storage; duct cleaning to pianos and organs.

Show attendees fall into one of several categories, the association notes:

• People planning to buy or build a new home, who may visit with builders, real-estate agents, financial institutions, and sellers of component products, such as hardwood flooring, tile, and appliances;

• People planning to remodel or renovate, who may want to check in with all of the above, plus vendors of replacement components such as windows and doors, as well as appliances, wall treatments, and home furnishings;

• Yard and garden enthusiasts, who tend to be interested in lawn and landscaping services; wall, walk, and edging components and materials; and trees, shrubs, flowers, and seeds;

• Lifestyle-conscious individuals, who like to check out trendy, high-tech, or time-saving products; home furnishings; and products focused on self-improvement, fitness, and health;

• Committed renters, who have no plans to own a house, but may be interested in space-conservation and space-utilization products, as well as home furnishings;

• Impulse buyers, who flock to vendors of home décor, arts and crafts, cooking and baking products, jewelry, and personal goods; and

• Those who attend the show purely for fun, who may arrive without an agenda but often develop ideas for future purchases and home products. “More than any other group,” according to the association, “these people are the ones who have come to rely upon our show on an annual basis and who perhaps have the greatest impact upon our vendors.”

Advice — on the House

In addition to the exhibitors, the four-day event will also include cooking shows, hosted by WMAS radio personalities, in the Home Show Kitchen in the Young Building. Various chefs from restaurants throughout the Pioneer Valley will be on hand to prepare some of their specialties, and audience members can ask them questions, try samples, and have a chance to win gift certificates from some of the establishments.

A children’s area in the Young Building will feature an art exhibit created by students from Thousand Cranes Studio and a chance to participate in creative activities, as well as Melha Shriners clowns and a live butterfly display from Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens. The Koi Society will have a pond built by C J Grounds Maintenance filled with koi fish, kids can get their pictures taken on a go-cart provided by Pioneer Valley Indoor Karting, Looney Tunes characters from Six Flags New England will be on hand, and Rolling Acres Outdoor and Science Summer Camp will help kids conduct science experiments.

Meanwhile, promotions and giveaways include the WMAS Kitchen Giveaway Contest, the Rock 102/Lazer 99.3 Ultimate New England Sports Fan Giveaway, and iHeartRadio’s $25,000 Home Makeover Contest.

In a dedicated outdoor area, several vendors will assemble outdoor structures such as sheds, gazebos, sunrooms, and furniture to spruce up the deck or poolside. Also on display in that area will be the large Beauty in Motion showroom of American Standard products.

Gilpatrick emphasized that the impact of the Home & Garden Show is year-round. “Some people may have a problem that costs $15,000 to fix, and they don’t have $15,000. But come next year, they’ve planned and budgeted, maybe secured financing, basically done what it will take, and that’s when we hear from them again. There’s a lot of that.”

This year’s show hours are Thursday and Friday, March 22-23, 1-9 p.m.; Saturday, March 24, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, March 25, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is $10 for adults, and children under 12 are admitted free. Discount coupons, available at www.westernmasshomeshow.com, knock $6 off the regular ticket price on Thursday, $4 off the regular price on Friday, and $2 off the regular price on Saturday and Sunday. Veterans and active military with ID receive free admission on Thursday only.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]