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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]

Golf Preview Sections

Course of Action

This rendering shows the new pool and addition to LCC’s stately clubhouse.

This rendering shows the new pool and addition to LCC’s stately clubhouse.

Longmeadow Country Club will turn 100 in a few years (the easy-to-remember 2022, to be more specific).

It is a venerable institution with considerable history, much of it focused on two of the most famous names in the history of golf: Donald Ross and Bobby Jones.

The former designed the course, and it is considered one of his best — in this region if not the country (he designed more than 400 courses worldwide). The latter is considered the greatest amateur in the history of the game. The winner of seven major championships, he played Spalding clubs, and the Chicopee-based company put his name on some of its equipment. When he visited the plant, he would often play Longmeadow Country Club and became a member there.

The club has hosted a number of tournaments over the years, including several Massachusetts Amateurs and the 2005 U.S. Junior Amateur, won by current PGA Tour pro Kevin Tway. Popular current players Rickie Fowler and Sam Saunders (Arnold Palmer’s grandson) also competed that year.

Meanwhile, the club has long been the only one in the region to have caddies, and its program has involved young people who would become captains of industry — and even captains in the military (an admiral, actually) — who would proudly recall their time at LCC.

There’s so much tradition and lore here that you often see adjectives placed before the club, like historic, fabled, and storied. And while those still apply, all that doesn’t make LLC immune from the powerful forces impacting the game — and business — of golf and private clubs everywhere, said current President Patrick O’Shea, a lawyer by trade and avid golfer.

“We no longer have a situation where the younger generation aspires, as a sign of success, to join a country club,” he said, summing up a complex matter rather simply. “The family money is going to a lot of places other than a country club.”

The need to respond to this sea change was the catalyst for a nearly $5 million renovation at the club. There is some work taking place on the course itself, O’Shea noted, adding that several hundred trees have been taken down, mostly in an effort to bring sunlight into areas of the course that sorely need it. But the most sweeping changes will be in and around the stately clubhouse.

Indeed, the facility is being made more casual and more family-friendly, he said, citing everything from a completely new look and feel inside the clubhouse to a new pool and patio area outside.

The plans call for demolishing the old tap room and nearby patio area and replacing that with a new 19th-hole/bar area with seating for about 50 people, with an adjacent casual dining space for nearly 100 people, with an open, family-friendly design.

Those we spoke with would wear out those words ‘open’ and ‘casual,’ in large part because these are things the old clubhouse wasn’t, but needs to be moving forward, because this is the environment members want.

“The focus is on the casual, fun social-gathering spaces,” said Rod Clement, LCC’s general manager, adding that the club is moving away away from the ‘white linen’ look and feel — although there will still be some of that if it’s appropriate. “People want spaces where they can see each and other and interact; they don’t have to be segregated in different venues of the club. People want to be part of a community and see people coming in and out.”

The Donald Ross-designed course at LCC

The Donald Ross-designed course at LCC is among the region’s finest. This view is from the back of the par-3 16th hole.

The extensive renovations bring with them a discernable level of risk for the club — it has lost some members as a result of the assessment levied to help pay for it, and replacing them is challenging in this environment, even for LCC.

But all those we spoke with said it was something the club needed to do as it strives to thrive not only in its second century, but in a new environment for private country clubs.

For this issue and its focus on sports and leisure, BusinessWest toured the new clubhouse and talked with several of those involved with this ambitious project to gain some insight into the latest chapter in the club’s long history.

Reshaping History

That tour took place on St. Patrick’s Day, when the club scheduled an open house at which members could see the work in progress.

More than 100 people would come through the new front door at the course that day, said Jim Kennedy, the club’s vice president, adding that this number reflects the size and scope of this project, as well as the level of investment on the part of the membership.

renovated clubhouse at LCC

This rendering shows the renovated clubhouse at LCC. The two words used most to describe it are ‘open’ and ‘casual,’ qualities it did not possess before the makeover.

Longmeadow is one of only two member-owned clubs left in this region (Ludlow is the other), and every aspect of this project had to be approved by committee — actually, two of them. First, the long-range planning committee, which took ownership of the project, and then the membership as a whole.

“I think it went quite smoothly,” said O’Shea, tongue firmly planted in cheek as he talked about what became several years of planning, revising plans, and revising them some more.

He said talks concerning a serious makeover at the club actually began about five or six years ago, and escalated over time. The talks commenced because the scene was changing at private clubs regionally and across the country.

“We had different national consultants come in and talk with the members and let them know that there are changes on the horizon in the country-club scene,” he told BusinessWest. “They said that it’s more family-centric, with women making more of the decisions about joining clubs, where before it was men.

“We have a spectacular golf course here — everyone knows that, we know that, we love it, we appreciate it, we’re stewards of it,” he went on. “But we realized that we need more than that; we recognized that we need to enhance the family and social gathering places. Some of the spaces we had were more set up for the 1950s dining and dancing culture than the culture of today.”

By late 2015, a plan emerged — and was actually approved by the members — for a $7.4 million renovation focused entirely on the clubhouse, with nothing slated for the course or pool and related facilities.

After much consideration, and despite approval from the membership, the panel created for this initiative decided to “tap the brakes,” as O’Shea put it, and consider something on a smaller yet broader scale. What eventually emerged is what members toured on St. Patrick’s Day.

As they drove in, they could probably see some of the changes on the course itself, undertaken in accordance with a 54-page golf-course master plan prepared by golf architect Ron Prichard, a well-known Donald Ross restoration specialist (changes to Ross-designed courses are not undertaken lightly).

While there will be repair work to the cart paths and installation of improved drainage on holes 9,12, and 17, the biggest change involves the removal of trees.

This is a movement taking place across the golf landscape, literally and figuratively, said Tim Quirk, head pro at LCC, noting that, while trees can define a golf hole, some trees don’t contribute to a course’s design or degree of difficulty but do keep areas in almost constant shade, thus impacting turf condition.

It is trees of this latter variety (more than 300 of them by the latest count) that the club has taken down since late last fall. A good number of trees have come down on the right side of the 10th fairway, but the biggest change is the removal of a large stand of trees between the 3rd and 6th holes.

Indeed, as they walked BusinessWest out for a look, Kennedy and Quirk stopped at the tee of the par-3 7th and gestured out to something that could never be seen from that spot before — the 3rd green.

But as dramatic as the on-course changes are, those inside and around the clubhouse are even more so. Overall, though, they were blueprinted in a way that would change the look and feel of the interior of the clubhouse, but yield what O’Shea called “minimal exterior transformation to make sure it looks like it’s been here for 100 years.”

Bill Laplante and his father, Ray, principals with East Longmeadow-based Laplante Construction, were assigned the task of designing and undertaking the renovations. But as long-time members, they were already heavily invested in it — in every way.

As he walked BusinessWest through the new clubhouse-in-progress, Bill Laplante also used the words ‘open,’ ‘casual,’ and ‘family-friendly,’ but he added some others that hadn’t been used to reference to the LCC facilities historically — like ‘modern,’ ‘flexible,’ and ‘energy-efficient.’

“We tried to marry the new with the old to make sure that it’s consistent with regard to the original design of the building,” he explained. “But at the same time, we’re trying to modernize the space.”

By modernize, he meant amenities like an elevator for handicap accessibility between the main level, pool-deck level, and the pool locker-room level below it. But he was also referring to foam insulation, new windows, and new roofing in some sections for increased efficiency.

And also to how everything has been designed — with the goal of creating an environment that is open, bright (there’s much more natural light), and easy to navigate.

The Next Chapter

Overall, this is an extensive makeover that includes everything from that new front door to a new private dining room; from a new and expanded kitchen with energy-efficient equipment to a new audio-visual system. As LaPlante said, it’s a marriage of the old and the new, which is important here.

Indeed, from the road, the clubhouse still says ‘1922,’ which is what the members want and demand.

But inside, it says ‘2018,’ and in all the important ways, that is also what is wanted and needed.

Thus, a course and a club steeped in tradition and lore is writing an important new chapter in its history.


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

Special Publications Tale Care to Prepare: A Guide to Senior Planning

A New Specialty Publication of Healthcare News & BusinessWest

The specialty guide is intended to serve as a roadmap, containing a glossary of terms, worksheets, lists and thoughtful questions specific to senior living planning.

Featured Sections: 

  • Senior Living Options
  • Estate Planning
  • Paying for Care
  • Transitioning
  • Resources

This specialty publication will be distributed to our BusinessWest and Healthcare News subscribers and be available online as an interactive flipbook. Sponsorship & advertising opportunities are available.

Click for Sponsorship Opportunities
Click for Advertising Opportunities
 
For more information and print ad rates contact:
Kate Campiti 413.781.8600 (ext. 104) [email protected]
Kathleen Plante 413.781.8600 (ext. 108) [email protected]


 

 

Special Publications Tale Care to Prepare: A Guide to Senior Planning

A New Specialty Publication of Healthcare News & BusinessWest

The specialty guide is intended to serve as a roadmap, containing a glossary of terms, worksheets, lists and thoughtful questions specific to senior living planning.

Featured Sections: 

  • Senior Living Options
  • Estate Planning
  • Paying for Care
  • Transitioning
  • Resources

This specialty publication will be featured in the May 28 issue of BusinessWest and the June issue of Healthcare News and online as an interactive flipbook. Sponsorship & advertising opportunities are available.

Click for Sponsorship Opportunities
Click for Advertising Opportunities
 
For more information and print ad rates contact:
Kate Campiti 413.781.8600 (ext. 104) [email protected]
Kathleen Plante 413.781.8600 (ext. 108) [email protected]


 

 

Features

Something’s Cooking

Chef Warren Leigh in one of the teaching kitchens at the new Holyoke Community College MGM Culinary Arts Institute.

Chef Warren Leigh in one of the teaching kitchens at the new Holyoke Community College MGM Culinary Arts Institute.

The Holyoke Community College MGM Culinary Arts Institute opened its doors to considerable fanfare last month. Officials at the school wore out the phrase ‘state-of-the-art’ as they talked about its five kitchens and other facilities. But that’s only part of the story. The institute is also a key ingredient, as they say in culinary arts, in workforce-development initiatives, as well as efforts to revitalize
downtown Holyoke.

Chef Warren Leigh knew something was up when students arrived for the first class of the semester more than an hour early.

More to the point, he knew exactly what was up, and he didn’t blame those early birds one bit.

Indeed, it seems that people can’t wait to get a look at the $7.5 million Holyoke Community College MGM Culinary Arts Institute, now occupying the first two floors of the building in downtown Holyoke with a name that matches its shape: the Cubit. And that includes the students in Leigh’s classes, specifically the ones a semester or two into their studies within the culinary and hospitality programs who kept hearing about what was being built to replace the aging, insufficient facilities on the HCC campus. And hearing about them. And hearing about them.

So it’s no wonder they altered their schedules and gave themselves what amounted to — wait for it — a cook’s tour. Well, not really. Instead, it was an involved, quite lengthy tour, again for good reasons, as we’ll see when Leigh takes BusinessWest around in a little bit.

Several years in the making, the new, 20,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility boasts five kitchens, a separate bakery, an 80-seat dining facility that will host a variety of events, ultra-modern classrooms, a well-appointed student lounge, an area to change clothes, and much more.

“Aside from Johnson & Wales and the Culinary Institute of America, this is the most current, purpose-built culinary-arts facility in New England, maybe in the Northeast,” said Leigh, chair of the Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts programs at HCC. “It’s truly a regional resource.”

Beyond all that, and those points are noteworthy to be sure, the new center is a significant development, in every sense of that phrase, in many other respects.

First, it represents a huge step forward in the broad realm of workforce development within the culinary-arts field, both locally and regionally, a segment of the economy that was already growing and will now get a huge boost with the arrival in about eight months of MGM Springfield and a host of new restaurants.

The need to hire what will likely be several hundred food-service-related personnel is a big reason why MGM contributed $500,000 to this project and now has its name on the facility.

‘State-of-the-art’ is a phrase that defines all aspects of the new facility in the Cubit Building in downtown Holyoke.

‘State-of-the-art’ is a phrase that defines all aspects of the new facility in the Cubit Building in downtown Holyoke.

But, overall, the food-service and hospitality sectors in Western Mass. are growing, and, as is the case in many fields, finding sufficient numbers of qualified help is becoming an ever-greater challenge.

The Culinary Arts Institute will help close the gap, said Michele Cabral, HCC’s interim dean for Business and Technology, who told BusinessWest that, like other initiatives undertaken at HCC in recent years, the institute is a direct response to recognized needs within the business community and a desire to meet them.

Meanwhile, the institute is both the cornerstone of efforts to renovate the Cubit Building into a mixed-use facility, with apartments on the upper floors, and one of the key ingredients (that’s an industry phrase) in efforts to bring people, businesses, and vibrancy to a surging downtown Holyoke.

For this issue, BusinessWest takes a tour of, and an in-depth look at, the Culinary Arts Institute to fully explain its significance to the college, the students who will learn there, and the region as a whole.

Food for Thought

Leigh wears a number of hats in his role as chair of hospitality management and culinary arts, including the traditional chef’s hat.

He’s added another one, but only figuratively.

Indeed, he doesn’t wear any headgear when he’s giving tours, which has become a big part of his job description these days. He’s led walkthroughs taken by constituencies ranging from elected officials to prospective students to media members, and there are many more already on the calendar.

He doesn’t mind this intrusion on his schedule, though, because, like all those at HCC, he’s quite proud of all the hard work that went into designing and building this facility — and obviously with the final product itself.

Before getting one of those tours, BusinessWest first wanted to talk about what brought everyone to this moment.

There has a been a culinary-arts program, in one form or another, at HCC for roughly 30 years, said Leigh, whose tenure covers roughly a third that period. The program, which years ago was more hospitality-related than culinary-focused, has had several homes over the years, none of them large or particularly well-equipped. The most recent was in the Frost Building in what he believes was the old music room.

The need for a larger, better facility was apparent, he went on, but so were the challenges to securing one, including a location and, especially, the funding. Finally, a plan was conceptualized that would make the college — and MGM — partners in the bold plans to revitalize the Cubit Building, which had been underutilized for many years.

This is a true public-private partnership, one that involves the college (and thus the state), the city of Holyoke, the federal government (specifically the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration), MGM, and brothers Denis and Marco Luzuriaga, who purchased the Cubit Building and have invested heavily in its redevelopment.

As the partners in the ambitious initiative came together and plans started to materialize, those involved came to understand what this opportunity meant, and how they needed to take full advantage of it.

“A cross-functional team was put together, and it was told that, if we have the space, we have one chance to get this right — let’s talk about how to build what we actually want,” said Cabral. “Faculty, hospitality, and culinary were part of the team from day one in designing the space and selecting the equipment.”

They certainly did get it right, and the resulting facility enables HCC to greatly expand capacity and thus better serve the region and its culinary- and hospitality-related businesses.

Warren Leigh and Michele Cabral

Warren Leigh and Michele Cabral have devoted considerable time recently to the leading tours of the new Culinary Arts Institute, and there are many more scheduled.

Cabral qualified and quantified what it all means.

“This gives us the capacity to teach multiple sections of our credit programs,” she explained, “while at the same time responding to the needs of the community and teaching workforce development, professional development, and adult basic education related to culinary hospitality. In our old space, we only had one and a half kitchens, so we could only do one thing at a time.”

Leigh agreed, and noted that the institute is a “purpose-built facility” and one of the few in the region, if not the country, when it comes to culinary arts and hospitality centers of study.

“As we grow, we can use every one of these kitchens and classrooms running simultaneously, all day long,” he explained, adding that there is considerable room for expansion as well as expectations that it will be used as demand for workers in these fields escalates.

Five-course Facility

BusinessWest visited the institute on the first day of classes for the spring semester, and, as noted at the top, many of the students were a tad eager — and more than a tad early.

Leigh said he’s been teaching a long time and has never witnessed anything quite like, but, as he said, it’s understandable.

There’s lots to see, and he started the tour where he usually does, with the fully equipped demonstration kitchen, which, as that name suggests, is for demonstrations and teaching exercises.

“In here, we can do any method of cooking,” he said. “And we have three cameras that will put it onto monitors so the students can see close up. We can save it and we can broadcast it over the World Wide Web to anywhere we want.”

From there, he went to the dining room, which can be set up for gatherings of up to 90-100 people, said Leigh, adding that this facility also has cameras and monitors, and students will handle every aspect of events to be staged there, and several have been booked already.

The tour continued in the “production kitchen,” set up European style, as he described it, with the student chefs facing each other (rather than a wall as is the case in most area restaurants) and communicating with each other as they work together to prepare a meal. And then on to two teaching kitchens, a bake shop, classrooms, and that student lounge. Each area is large, open, bathed in natural light thanks to huge windows, and built to enhance the learning process.

The ‘production kitchen’ in the new culinary arts institute is spacious and state-of-the-art.

The ‘production kitchen’ in the new culinary arts institute is spacious and state-of-the-art.

“What I like about our design is that I can stand almost any place in here as a professor and I can see the whole kitchen, I can see all the students, I can talk to all the students,” Leigh explained, adding that it will even be equipped with a microphone because it can get quite noisy in those spaces and even his “kitchen voice” might not suffice.

As noted earlier, these facilities enable a number of classes to be taught at one time, said Leigh, including all segments of HCC’s new associate’s degree program in Culinary Arts, a four-semester program that is now a cornerstone of a program that Cabral described with the term “stackable.”

Elaborating, she said that students could choose a one-year certificate program in Culinary Arts. If they wanted to go further, they could enter the associate’s degree program and essentially build on what they started.

“They can come in and go as far as they want to go; and we’ve made it easy and mapable for them to do that,” she went on, adding that, an individual can start with professional-development classes in mind and segue into the culinary certificate program and then, perhaps, the degree program.

And with that associate’s degree, a student could transfer to Johnson & Wales or another school that offers a four-year program, such as UMass Amerst’s offering in Food Science, said Leigh, adding quickly sending the first two years at a community college and then transferring to a four-year school has become an increasingly popular option for cost-conscious families and individuals.

Meanwhile, that two-year program will certainly open a lot of doors to those who choose that route, he went on, adding that with MGM’s arrival and a host of other additions within the hospitality sector, there are a lot more doors to go through if one is qualified.

Tastefully Done

Helping individuals become qualified was the primary driver behind the new culinary arts institute. Actually, there were several, including a desire among those at the college to play an even more direct role in economic development efforts in Holyoke.

Both of those assignments will play out over coming years as Leigh puts to use his kitchen voice — as well as that microphone — in that demonstration area.

“This is a unique, purpose-built facility that really doesn’t exist anywhere else,” he told BusinessWest, adding that students needed to arrive an hour before the first class started to take it all in.

he was going to say more … but he had to go give yet another tour.

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

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Clair Yiting Gu was nearly 2,000 miles from Springfield Technical Community College, but she felt at home at the annual conference of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).

Gu was one of eight STCC students who traveled to Austin, Texas, for the SWE conference to join 14,000 attendees, including college students, academic women, and professional women.

“It’s awesome,” said Gu, a computer science student who spoke from the STCC campus after returning from the conference. “You see a lot of women engineers there. You feel like you are not alone. It’s very exciting.”

Another computer science student who attended, Darya Bandarchuk, loved the opportunity to meet women who are interested in engineering. “It was great. It was my second time going to a SWE conference. There are not a lot of events like the SWE conference. You get completely immersed in engineering. You get to go to a career fair, which is a great opportunity,” she said.

The conference, which was held in October, is billed as the world’s largest conference and career fair for women in engineering and technology. STCC prepares students for careers in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“As a technical community college, but also as a ‘STEMinist’ institution, I am thrilled our students had the opportunity to attend this important conference,” said STCC President John Cook.

Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh, professor of Physics and Engineering at STCC and the SWE faculty advisor, helped raise money to bring a contingent of students and three faculty and staff to the conference. She said STCC was better-represented than any other community college in the country.

The conference provided an opportunity to attend workshops and meet with major employers from technology companies such as Google, Amazon, and Texas Instruments, among others. STCC students who want to transfer after receiving their two-year associate degree were able to meet with representatives from four-year engineering programs.

STCC students participated in presentations at the conference. McGinnis-Cavanaugh’s presentation focused on a proposal to form a SWE network among the 15 Massachusetts community colleges. STCC staff member Isabel Huff presented on gender stereotypes that can hold women back from pursuing careers in STEM.

“They’re exposed to students from all over the country, mainly from four-year schools,” said McGinnis-Cavanaugh. “They’re also exposed to a lot of professional women and professionals who are there recruiting. They have a huge career fair. They do on-site interviews and résumé reviews. For our students, it’s great exposure. They don’t generally have these kinds of opportunities.”

While the employers were mainly looking to hire students graduating with four-year degrees, STCC students received a tremendous opportunity to practice interview skills, obtain feedback on their résumés, and chat with professionals in the field, she added. As engineering is still a field dominated by men, most companies are seeking a more diverse workforce and are eager to hire qualified women.

SWE, a national professional society for women in engineering and related STEM fields, supports collegiate sections nationally and internationally. STCC is one of only 14 community colleges in the country affiliated with SWE. The chapter, formed in 2014, comprises about 20 women majoring in engineering and science transfer and engineering technologies.

“It was an unbelievable event, and it was great that the college supported their trip,” McGinnis-Cavanaugh said. “We had at least one student who had never been on a plane before. To have an opportunity to visit a city like Austin, which is a real tech hub, and then be with 14,000 women who are in STEM, is pretty incredible.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) will host sections of the internationally celebrated AIDS Memorial Quilt, the 54½-ton, handmade tapestry that stands as a memorial to more than 96,000 individuals lost to AIDS. In conjunction with its 30th anniversary, the quilt will be on view at the Griswold Theatre Lobby and West Wing Gallery in the Karen Sprague Cultural Arts Center on the AIC campus from Thursday, Nov. 30 through Sunday, Dec. 3.

Officially beginning in 1987, the quilt is a memorial to and celebration of the lives of people lost to AIDS. In the 1980s, many who died of AIDS-related causes did not receive funerals due to the social stigma attached to the disease and the refusal of many funeral homes and cemeteries to handle the remains of the deceased. Without the ability to hold memorial services or have access to burial sites, the quilt was often the only opportunity family members, friends, and survivors had to remember and celebrate the lives of those they lost.

Today, the quilt is maintained and displayed by the NAMES Project Foundation. Individual quilt panels are typically very personalized and are created by the loved ones of an individual who died of AIDS-related causes. By design, each panel is 3 feet by 6 feet, the size of a human grave. Panels are donated to the NAMES Project Foundation where they are grouped with other similar panels and assembled into 12-by-12-foot sections called blocks, which are on view at local displays of the quilt. There will be 20 blocks on display at AIC. The response to the announcement that the college will host the quilt has been positive, with requests from the Boston area, Cape Cod, and Connecticut to have specific panels included.

One goal of the quilt is to bring awareness to the enormity of the AIDS pandemic and to provide support to those affected by it. Another objective is to raise funds for community-based AIDS service organizations and to increase funding for AIDS prevention and education.

The AIDS Quilt display will be open to the public on Thursday, Nov. 30 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 1 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 2 from noon to 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 3 from noon to 5 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public. Parking is available in Lot I across from the Karen Sprague Cultural Arts Center on the corner of State and Maynard streets. Visit aic.edu/quilt for more information.

Landscape Design Sections

Weighty Business

Joseph AlexopoulosTrees serve both practical and aesthetic functions, and people can become quite attached to them. But work to maintain, trim, and even remove trees should be left to the professionals, who say their profession is often dangerous, but in all ways rewarding.

Joseph Alexopoulos has given many customers quotes for taking down a tree. But he will never forget the day he arrived at a house, saw a rope hanging from the tree the homeowner wanted removed, and asked about it.

“I was told the man they hired before me died trying to fell it,” said the president of Tree 413 in Longmeadow, adding that the tragedy is an example of how dangerous the work can be.

Local experts agree it’s critically important to hire professionals with the knowledge, training, proper equipment, and insurance to prevent homeowners from being sued if an accident occurs on their property.

The Tree Care Industry Assoc. says successfully felling a tree requires knowledge of tree physics, biology, dangerous tools, and advanced cutting techniques, and homeowners who attempt their own tree removal may be injured by falling limbs, malfunctioning equipment, or the tree itself.

The work is hazardous by nature, and professionals are completely outfitted in protective gear and trained to climb trees, operate cranes, and use chainsaws, ropes, wood chippers, and stump grinders safely.

Manager Randy Sample of Arbortech Tree Service LLC in Springfield says the company holds weekly meetings led by employees to discuss situations they encounter and the safest way to deal with them.

“Unforeseen scenarios can occur, but we go to great lengths to eliminate the possibility of accidents,” he said, adding that employees use a wide range of equipment, adhere to OSHA standards, and are certified annually in electrical hazard and prevention, which ensures they are familiar with equipment utility companies use to provide electricity and the dangers associated with tree care and utility lines.

Tree pruning and felling is a major source of income for most local tree-service companies, but many have branched out, and the scope of their work includes a wide variety of jobs.

Arbortech created a Plant Healthcare Division five years ago to keep trees healthy, because problems almost always begin in the root system.

Randy Sample

Randy Sample says Arbortech employees meet weekly to discuss potentially dangerous situations and how to handle them.

“By the time they are noticeable, it may be too late to save the tree,” Sample said, adding that he has heard countless stories from families about their emotional attachment to a particular tree, and, therefore, the company strives to prevent damage that can threaten the health of these woody plants.

Tree 413, meanwhile, specializes in difficult tree removal that typically requires cranes, special equipment, and skilled climbers. “Many trees literally need to be lifted over the house with a crane as a whole or in pieces; it’s not a job where you can cut corners,” said Alexopoulos, adding that the company’s business has doubled every year for the last three years and workers do everything possible to ensure that limbs don’t fall on a roof, power line, vehicle, or anywhere else that could cause damage.

The company also does excavation and demolition, plans to start selling colored mulch, and recently opened a store in Southwick that carries equipment for professionals and homeowners that can be rented or purchased. It ranges from heavy-duty machinery to chainsaws and leaf blowers and includes clothing appropriate for tree work, because professionals are outfitted from head to toe to ensure safety.

Northern Tree Service Inc. in Palmer does a wide range of residential, industrial, and commercial work in three divisions that include tree service, land clearing, and construction. Its work ranges from felling trees to identifying potential hazards such as overhanging branches, dead limbs, or diseased trees for municipalities, golf courses, and other venues, as well as providing access for utilities.

For this issue and its focus on landscape design, BusinessWest looks at the scope of work that tree service companies do and the reasons they are called upon for help.

Diverse Services

Local tree-service companies say homeowners should never hire anyone without asking for proof they have liability and workers’ compensation insurance.

Nick Powers

Nick Powers says Northern identifies problems like weak limbs for its clients before they cause damage or injury.

“Many small contractors let their insurance lapse, so even if the person hands you a copy of a policy, you should call the phone number on it to ensure they are paid up to date,” Alexopoulos told BusinessWest.

Sample concurred. “People need to do their homework; the level of danger is very real, and there are many companies that are not qualified to do this type of work,” he said, adding that homeowners should also ask for referrals, make sure the company adheres to industry standards, and check if its arborists are certified through websites such as www.treesaregood.com, which offer educational materials and links to helpful information.

In addition to tree trimming and removal, Tree 413 performs excavation and demolition ranging from removing a sidewalk to an entire garage and foundation, or a Gunite pool made entirely of concrete. When the demolition is complete, workers fill in the cavity, spread topsoil over it, then seed it.

The company recently took down three trees for a homeowner in a project that was similar to a major demolition project, because they weighed a total of 60,000 pounds.

“The job was very involved and required skilled tree climbers, a crane, and a police officer in the road near our groundsmen who were cutting and chipping sections and putting logs in a truck to be taken away,” Alexopoulos said.

He added that dead trees are very difficult to take down, and the job often has to be done in sections. “If a cut branch slams into a dead tree, it can shatter,” he explained, noting that a small limb can weigh 600 pounds.

Arbortech also does a large amount of residential work, but its slogan is “more than just tree removal.” The company employs certified arborists who evaluate trees, shrubs, and woody plants and diagnose and treat disease, insect problems, and the type and amount of fertilizer needed for optimal growth.


SEE: List of Landscape Design Companies


“We try to care for trees from the roots up; we focus on tree preservation rather than removal,” Sample said, adding that indications that a tree is in trouble include problems such as leaves that fall too early.

He told BusinessWest that most problems stem from improper planting. Trees can be too close to a driveway, home, or power line, and choosing the right location for a specific species and its future growth is critical.

“The root system is the foundation of a tree and is typically as large as its crown or the drip line from the farthest branch,” Sample said.

The company’s arborists uncover roots, which are usually buried a foot or two beneath the ground, take soil samples, and inspect the root collar to make sure roots aren’t choking each other, which can affect the nutrients the tree is able to absorb.

Arbortech also plants trees and maintains orchards for customers that include apple, pear, and peach trees, as well as raspberry and blueberry bushes.

In addition, it sells mulch, loam, topsoil, and both green and 100% seasoned firewood.

“It can be a frustrating endeavor to buy firewood that is dirty, not properly seasoned, and doesn’t give the heat people are looking for,” Sample said, noting that the company purchases wood from logging contractors that has been specially cut to fit their machines, tests it with a moisture meter, rotates it so it will dry properly, then puts it through another screening process after it is purchased to ensure the delivered product doesn’t include any loose bark or chunks of wood.

Northern Tree Services performs jobs in many settings. It builds roads and work pads for utility companies, and has cleared sections of land that range from a half-acre to 550 acres to make way for power lines, solar fields, gas and oil pipelines — including the Keystone Pipeline — and large commercial contractors.

The company has 220 employees across the U.S., but the majority of its work is done in New England, and it also has contracts with colleges, golf courses, apartment and condominium complexes, 40 airports, the cities of Springfield and Boston, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the state Department of Transportation, and Eversource. It has also developed a Google Earth program to identify trees that need to be pruned, thinned, or felled.

“It’s our job to identify hazards before they happen,” said company spokesman Nick Powers, noting that Northern also has a contract with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which is responsible for monitoring and maintaining vegetation on its roads, including the well-traveled Storrow Drive in Boston.

The company also does residential and commercial plantings and tree removal and pruning, which is especially important for utility companies because falling limbs can cause power outages.

Kevin Ferguson, project manager and estimator, told BusinessWest that arborists identify weak limbs that need to be supported or removed so they don’t fall during a windstorm or from the weight of snow.

“It doesn’t take much wind to knock deadwood out of a tree,” he said, explaining that, when they are called to a home, they examine the entire property and point out potential dangers. Some trees can be thinned to eliminate shade and the growth of moss on a roof, while helping prevent gutters from getting clogged with leaves, while others need low-hanging or dead limbs removed.

Safety First

Local tree companies do everything in their power to prevent accidents, but tree work is a risky business and can lead to damage or injury when unqualified people are hired to do a job.

It all comes down to respecting the power of nature and checking a company’s credentials, but anyone who hires licensed professionals to plant, prune, or fell trees can rest assured that every possible safety precaution will be taken, and their trees will add beauty and life to their property and be enjoyed by generations to come.

Building Trades Sections

Floor Plans

The team at Best Tile in Springfield

The team at Best Tile in Springfield includes, from left, Sarah Rietberg, showroom manager; Chad Hart and Beverly Gomes, design consulants; and Karen Belezarian-Tesini, store manager.

Harry Marcus started installing tile way back in 1955, so Karen Belezarian-Tesini considers herself lucky to have known him.

“Harry would say, ‘why are you here? Why do you like the business?’” said Belezarian-Tesini, manager of Best Tile in Springfield — one of some 30 locations that have sprung from Marcus’ original business 60 years ago. “I said, ‘I have a passion for it.’ Harry said, ‘that’s why you’re going to last. You have to have a passion for what you do.’”

Marcus Tile was born in the City of Homes, but there were no tile distributors in Springfield, meaning he had to travel to Hartford almost every day to pick up tile for his four-man team of installers. So he and his wife, Mollie, decided to start their own tile-distribution business. They sold their installation business and partnered with the Wenczel Tile Co. to open up Standard Tile Distributors in August 1956.

“It was a true rags-to-riches story,” Belezarian-Tesini said. “He was selling so much and so well, Wenczel asked him, ‘if we got you a bricks-and-mortar shop, would you open a store?’ He said yes and opened up his store.”

That’s where the story began — a story that has since expanded well past the Springfield-Hartford corridor, across the Northeast and down the Atlantic Coast. The Marcuses’ oldest son, Steve, eventually entered the family business and, after managing the Hartford branch, opened a new location in Albany, N.Y., naming it Best Tile — the word ‘Best’ representing the first two letters of his first name and that of his wife, Beverly.

By the early 1970s Best Tile was importing tile from around the world, and Steve Marcus and his business partner, Bob Rose, had expanded well into Central and Western New York. Meanwhile, Steve’s brother, Brad, expanded the company into the Boston area, and Steve Marcus and Rose later expanded into Pennsylvania with another partner, Chet Whittam. Following that, the company set up shop in Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia, and more recently Vermont and North Carolina.

Karen Belezarian-Tesini

Karen Belezarian-Tesini says a slowing of the building boom over the past 20 years has coincided with an uptick in remodeling, which certainly benefits Best Tile.

“They’ve done very well managing and growing the business. It’s a great company to work for,” Belezarian-Tesini said. “They’re smart investors, and they direct-import everything, buying direct from factories. They’ve kept a great relationship with these factories over the years, which gives them great buying power.”

Those factories are based in countries as far-flung as Spain, Italy, Brazil, England, Turkey, Mexico, and the U.S., she added. “We pride ourselves on quality. In all the years I’ve worked here, no one’s ever come back and complained about quality of the tile, which is huge.”

Hitting the Wall

From her position managing the bustling shop on Belmont Avenue — where customers come looking to inject new life into their kitchen and bathroom floors and walls, among other areas — Belezarian-Tesini has seen a number of changes in the tile business.

“Twenty years ago, it was a contractor-driven industry, big time. It’s now more of a remodeling industry, with maybe 50% of the business retail — years ago, there was not as much retail,” she explained. “The building boom isn’t there like it used to be; you don’t see big tracts of homes going up. There’s a lot more remodeling going on.

“It’s still the City of Homes; I do believe that,” she went on. “You can tell by the remodeling going on in our neighborhoods. People are retiring to over-55 communities, and the younger generation is moving in and remodeling the home. That’s where a lot of our business is coming from nowadays.”

She noted that the contractors working in this field are an aging lot. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I wish trade schools would introduce more tile-related careers, because it’s an industry that should continue to grow.”

It’s growing in part through social media, websites, and especially home-improvement networks like HGTV and DIY, which showcase transitions that inspire viewers to tackle tile jobs themselves or hire someone to bring their vision to life.

“That’s what’s driving people, opening their eyes to what’s current, what’s hot,” she said. And that means Best Tile needs to stay on the cutting edge of what shoppers are looking for.

“Flooring has gone from a marble look to a wooded look,” she noted as one example. And large-format floor tiles are extremely popular, like 8-by-48-inch floor sections and 12-by-24-inch wall tiles; 12-by-12 pieces have become a bit passé. Meanwhile, “mosaic is hot, hot, hot — glass mosaic, glass and stone mixed, all stone, stone and ceramic. It can be for a floor, wall, backsplash, bathroom, kitchen, you name it. It’s everywhere, and it’s beautiful.

“The industry has come a long way,” she added. “The digital imaging, the handcrafted tile, so superior to what we had years ago. It’s beautiful.”

Happy Wife, Happy Life

Since the 2000s, the third generation of Roses and Marcuses have led the company through continued growth, showroom upgrades, and product expansion, under the umbrella of the East Coast Tile Group of companies.

But that’s the big picture; Belezarian-Tesini is more invested in the individuals — and, more often than not, couples — that show up at Best Tile looking to realize their vision of a beautiful bathroom or kitchen.

“You do this with your spouse; it’s not usually something you do alone. Husbands and wives make decisions together. And when they shop, they’re generally shopping together,” she said, adding, however, that some husbands embody man-shopping clichés. “Most of the time, we offer the husbands coffee or water, or ask if they want to sit down somewhere. Some spouses are very involved, and some are just here for the ride.”

It’s a ride that began with Harry Marcus’ vision, and passion, for building a business from the ground — well, the tile floor, anyway — up.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Construction Sections

Building Expectations

constructiondpartThe construction sector has always been a good barometer when it comes to the economy and what may happen with it in the foreseeable future. And this historical trend is one of many reasons why cautious optimism abounds in the region. Indeed, many firms report that they have a number of projects on the books for the year ahead and beyond, and that these projects involve a number of economic sectors.

 

Gagliarducci Construction in Springfield has been in business since 1916, and the fourth-generation, family-owned company has had to switch its focus many times over the years to keep pace with change. It specializes in excavation, earth moving, site work, and mobile crushing of stone, concrete, and asphalt, and the majority of its current projects are centered in educational and healthcare settings.

And it is extremely busy, reflective of a trend involving many players within the broad construction sector — one that is generating a good deal of optimism within the industry, and probably outside as well, because the sector has historically been a good barometer regarding the economy and what will happen with it.

“We have jobs on the books that extend well into 2018,” said Jerome Gagliarducci as he and his son Jay talked about their business history and projections for the future. “Most of the jobs are in the private sector and involve hospitals and schools. Between 2000 and 2006, we did a lot of work for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, but education and healthcare are a big part of the Western Mass. economy, and this is where the money is being spent now. There are a lot of colleges in the Pioneer Valley, and we’re glad to be involved in their ongoing projects.”

Still, having jobs booked this far in advance of a new year is not something they take for granted. “There have been times when all of our projects were completed by the end of the fall or winter and we had nothing scheduled for the upcoming year,” said Jay Gagliarducci. “We have been lucky: it’s unusual to have so many new jobs lined up this early that will continue into the future.”

Eric Forish, president of Forish Construction Inc. in Westfield, said his firm has also fared well.

“We’re celebrating our 70th year in business, and the last few years have been good ones; I credit that to our staff and expect that work in the commercial construction industry will continue to move in a positive direction,” he told BusinessWest, noting that the company typically has six or seven major projects taking place simultaneously.

Holyoke-based Daniel O’Connell’s Sons Inc. also reports that 2016 has been a good year. The company also has offices in Franklin, New Haven, Conn., and Kingston, N.Y., and President Jeff Bardell is often on the road. He told BusinessWest that entirely different dynamics exist in Eastern and Western Mass.

“Things are booming in the Boston area inside of Route 128. It’s obvious to drivers because there are so many cranes up,” Bardell said. Construction is also taking place in Western Mass., but not at the same level, and work in the public sector has declined.

“Work has been pretty steady here for the past few years, but the amount of roadwork, wastewater-treatment work, and public infrastructure spending has decreased over the past 12 months,” Bardell went on, noting that work in that sector was much more prevalent four or five years ago.

However, institutional jobs have filled the gap. “Colleges are still spending money, and we have done some nice projects,” he said.

Bardell believes some people are waiting for the work on Interstate 91 and the MGM casino in Springfield to be complete before launching new projects.

“A lot of people are looking at Springfield and hoping redevelopment will occur when the casino is finished,” he said, adding that one of O’Connell’s largest jobs in Springfield is the $60 million Union Station intermodal transportation center.

Eric Forish

Eric Forish says the $4 million, LEED-certified Westfield Transit Pavilion at Elm and Arnold streets is one of many projects his firm is working on at present.

It includes a 120,000-square-foot historical renovation to the old station in the downtown Railroad Historic District. The project has been complex and includes construction of a new, 24-bay bus terminal; a 480-car parking facility; and upgrades to the landscaping and hardscapes around the area.

Before the work began, Union Station consisted of two vacant buildings: a three-story terminal and a two-story baggage building that were both constructed in 1926.

“We’ve been working vigorously to wrap up the project and are very close to being done,” Bardell said, adding that he expects that to happen in the first quarter of 2017.

For this edition and its focus on construction, BusinessWest looks at a host of projects keeping commercial builders busy, as well as what they have lined up for the future.

Going Up

Bardell said O’Connell recently completed new residence halls at Amherst College. Four new dorms were erected as part of a greenway campus project, which will include demolishing the old dorms and building a 250,000-square-foot science center and expansive greenway along the full length of the landscape that can be used for recreation and relaxation.

Jerome and Jay Gagliarducci

Jerome and Jay Gagliarducci say they have work booked into 2018 and expect to be very busy in the coming year.

Another project at UMass Amherst will be completed in January, but right now work is still underway on its historic South College building. It includes a renovation of 30,000 square feet in the structure, built in 1886, and a four-story, 67,500-square-foot addition that will provide new common areas, faculty offices, classrooms, and an auditorium.

“The new building will be LEED-certified,” Bardell said. “It will be used next semester, and furniture is being moved into it now.”

The company has other ongoing projects in the educational sector. It just finished a $110 million job at Vassar College centered around an 80,000-square-foot Bridge Building that spans two sections of campus terrain and connects to the school’s Olmsted Hall via a two-level skywalk.

In addition, a $2 million renovation and addition to Philips Exeter Academy Center’s theater in Exeter, N.H. is underway. The job started two months ago and will expand the space to 63,000 square feet.

Four months ago, O’Connell began working on the $9 million Dartmouth College Hood Museum expansion and renovation project, which involves a restoration and addition to the existing gallery space. When it is finished by the end of next year, there will be five new galleries and advanced technology classrooms.

The company also has a few smaller jobs, including a renovation project at the Culinary Institute of America in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Another project in that state is at the Trinity-Pawling School, where O’Connell began working on a 27,000-square-foot addition to the Smith Field House about a month ago that will be complete sometime next year. “It will be used for basketball, lacrosse, and other sports,” Bardell said.

In addition to jobs in the educational sector, O’Connell has projects in other realms. Six months ago, it began a $29 million dollar upgrade to an existing wastewater-treatment plant that serves Mansfield, Foxborough, and Norton in the eastern part of the state.

Work on the MFN Regional Treatment Plant entails installing new aeration facilities, chemical facilities, and electrical upgrades as well as concrete work, and is expected to take another two years.

O’Connell is also doing a $17 million project in Providence, R.I. on the Providence River Pedestrian Bridge that connects two sides of the city and includes sections of a riverfront park.

“We’re optimistic as we look ahead at the coming year,” said Bardell. “We have some backlog, which we like, and are always looking for new work.”

Varied Portfolios

The majority of Gagliarducci’s projects take two to three years to complete.

“We’re usually the first on a site and the last to leave it. But it is a challenge to predict a year ahead of time exactly when we will be needed,” Jay said, explaining that schedules change from one month to the next, and although the end date is usually firm, weather and production by other trades affect the timetable.

Right now, all of the company’s work is institutional, and there has been plenty of it.

It just finished an addition at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield and started one at Baystate Wing Hospital in Palmer that will open in 2018.

“We dig the foundations and put in sewer, water, and drainage systems, which is work that people don’t see,” Jerome explained, adding that such work takes place at the start of a project, while work at the end of a project involves paving, curbing, sidewalks, and more.

Galiarducci has also broken ground at the site of the new Pope Francis High School in Springfield, which is slated to open in the fall of 2018. This school is being built on 40 acres of open space, which is unusual in this area; most of the company’s projects involve working in or around existing structures.


List of General Contractors in Western Mass.


The company was just hired to undertake work in a massive renovation of what’s known as Building 19 at Springfield Technical Community College, and that job will carry over into 2018.

Gagliarducci worked with O’Connell on the Amherst College greenway residence project, and will complete phase 1 of another large project at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst this month, which involves relocating water, sewer, and drainage lines in the footprint and moving them to allow for new construction.

Although the work may not sound complex, renovations and additions in tight spots can be quite challenging. “UMass presented real challenges because we had to work around the student traffic,” Jay told BusinessWest.

Deerfield Academy has also hired the firm to do site work for a new hockey arena. The project began in March and will be completed in 2018.

“It involves a lot of digging inside the foundation to support the renovation,” Jerome said, explaining that the firm will put in new sewer lines, curbing, and a parking lot.

Later this winter, it will begin a drainage project at Springfield Armory Museum.

This is a federal project, as the museum is owned by the government, and will include new sewer lines and curbing, sidewalks, and pavement. The work should be finished by the end of next year. “We’re also starting phase 2 of an over-55 community in Hadley,” he noted.

The first phase consisted of building seven or eight units, most of which have been spoken for, and the second phase will commence next spring when Gagliarducci will do site work to allow additional housing units to be built.

The company is also involved with the new South End Community Center in Springfield. Jay noted that Fontaine Brothers is building the new center on Marble Street and his firm is doing the sitework, which began in September.

Westfield’s Gaslight District Improvement Project is also on Gagliarducci’s roster. “It was our job to put in the water, sewer and drainage lines, as well as the sidewalks, curbs, and two parking lots, in addition to reconstructing several streets,” Jerome said, explaining that the project began two and a half years ago and involves major reconstruction in the area.

Future Endeavors

Forish Construction has a mix of ongoing projects that include the new $4 million Westfield Transit Pavilion at Elm and Arnold streets. The glass and steel building will have five bus berths, a shelter for passengers, a coffee shop, and administrative offices, and will be surrounded by brick walkways. Parking will be available in an adjacent facility, and there will be repair stations and racks for bicycles.

“It is the first major piece of the city’s long-term downtown redevelopment plan that will be completed,” Forish said, noting that the pavilion will be LEED-certified.

Several buildings were knocked down to make way for the new pavilion, which will make it more convenient for Westfield State students to travel to and from the university via a shuttle that runs between them.

The company has also several projects underway or that have been recently completed at UMass Amherst, including a roughly $4 million renovation to the W.E.B. Du Bois Library. “It is our third major project in this library, which they are redoing floor by floor,” Forish said.

Auto dealerships rank high on the company’s list of projects, and include work for Sarat Ford, Curry Nissan, and Sarat-Lincoln.

“We’re just wrapping up a renovation and addition to Lia Chrysler on King Street in Northampton,” Forish said, noting it is adjacent to Lia’s Honda store.

No one can predict the future, but work has been steady for Forish and other commercial contractors.

“We have a number of projects already under contract for 2017,” Forish said, noting that they include auto dealerships as well as private industrial buildings and the company is always active in the public sector and plans to bid on some local projects.

He told BusinessWest his optimism stems in part from the fact that Donald Trump is the new president-elect.

“It appears he is business-friendly and wants to see growth in U.S. and an increase in jobs here as opposed to abroad. We are already seeing a rise in the stock market, and people are optimistic about the direction the country is headed in, so we are hopeful that good things will come to fruition,” Forish said.

In the meantime, commercial contractors will continue to work hard to complete current projects, bid on new jobs, and rely on the stellar reputations that have kept them busy for generations as they plan for the New Year and beyond.