Home Posts tagged Sections (Page 2)
Opinion

Editorial

Over the years, BusinessWest has worn out the ‘question-mark’ key when writing stories and headlines for its Economic Outlook sections each December.

Any why not? No one really knows what lies ahead, especially when it comes to the economy. And over the past 15-20 years, there have been some times — such as the months after 9/11 and the very darkest days of the Great Recession in the fall of 2008 — when trying to speculate what might come next was all but impossible.

This isn’t exactly one of those times, but it’s close, and all because of history. Actually, two kinds of it.

First, that election about a month or so ago, because it ushered in a presidency seemingly defined by unpredictability and speculation — about what will happen domestically and abroad. And second, the nation’s economic track record.

Indeed, not once in the full history of this country has it gone more than 10 years without a recession. Don’t look now, but that means, sad to say, that we’re just about due for one. And if it comes soon — we’ve had almost nine years of mostly unspectacular growth — we’ll likely be entering it without the two most common methods of fighting one: lowering interest rates (because they’re already at historic lows and just can’t get any lower) and tax cuts (especially if President Trump makes good on his pledge to almost immediately lower them after getting sworn in).

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Sort of.

While it might be time to talk about that recession seemingly certain to come some time in Trump’s first term, the immediate future seems worthy of something else that gets typed often when writing about the year ahead — that phrase ‘cautious optimism.’

That’s especially true of the Western Mass. region, which, while it continues to lag maddeningly well behind most of the rest of the state in terms of growth and prosperity, is, for the most part, riding on an arrow pointed upward. Here are some reasons for the optimism:

• Springfield’s continuing climb. Last issue, we wrote about cranes and their uplifting abilities, no pun intended. It’s not hyperbole. Cranes do generate optimism and, well, more cranes. But it’s not just those machines at the casino site generating positive energy. It’s everything from new vibrancy downtown to the Thunderbirds; from Union Station to subway-car manufacturing. Springfield still has considerable work to do, but it is in what we believe are the early stages of a renaissance, which means there is more progress to come, and it will likely have a strong ripple effect throughout the region.

• Progress in other communities. As we’re written before, the process of reinventing a city — moving from a manufacturing hub to the proverbial ‘something else’ — is slow and often difficult. But many cities in this region, including Holyoke, Easthampton, Pittsfield, and Westfield, are making substantial progress in that regard, becoming centers for entrepreneurship, the arts, small business, tourism, and combinations of all of the above. This progress bodes well for the region, and it should continue in the year ahead.

• Promoting entrepreneurship. One of the most encouraging developments in this region in recent years, as we’ve noted, has been the efforts to not only promote and encourage entrepreneurship, but to create a population of smarter, more resilient entrepreneurs. Springfield has become the hub of this activity, but it’s happening region-wide. And while the landscape won’t change overnight, certainly, a stronger, more diverse economy will result.

• Eds and meds. Or is it meds and eds? While the region continues to diversify its economy, these two stalwarts continue to grow and become ever-more pivotal forces in overall economic development. Healthcare continues to be an ultra-steady source of jobs, and the region’s higher-ed institutions, led by UMass Amherst, are developing new degree programs and initiatives aimed at providing area businesses with their most important asset — qualified talent. These sectors are not only strong, but getting stronger, and the region will benefit accordingly.

While there are still many question marks regarding the economy and which way it will go in the year ahead, there are seemingly fewer of them. And this is a byproduct of the optimism (OK, guarded optimism) that is growing in intensity and bound to generate more progress in the year to come.

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

 

Mayor Luke Bronin and Jamie Bratt

Mayor Luke Bronin and Jamie Bratt stand in front of the 95-year-old Hartford Times building on Prospect Street that will become the center of University of Connecticut’s new downtown campus.

Jamie Bratt says that when many people think of Hartford, they envision the city as it was decades ago; a bustling metropolis where a lot of people worked and lived.

A sharp decline began in the ’80s, but over the past decade there has been a gradual upswing, and a flood of investments that began several years ago are aimed at restoring it to its former vibrancy.

“It’s a very exciting time for the city,” the director of Economic Development told BusinessWest. “One of the things that makes Hartford attractive is its size. It has an extremely robust arts and cultural scene, great restaurants, and access to the movers and shakers in state government, but it’s a small city that’s easy to get to.”

Mayor Luke Bronin, who took office in January, agrees and says economic development is focused on three main areas downtown: increasing the number of residential living units; adding new transportation options; and growing the number of medical and educational facilities.

The city is making major inroads on all three fronts, but the first is critical to growth, and there has been a concerted partnership between the City of Hartford and the state to increase the number of downtown residences.

“We’ve added 650 units over the past five years and the projects hold a lot of promise,” Bronin said, noting that many of the new apartments are in converted office buildings, the majority have been completed over the past 18 months, and the Capital Regional Development Authority (CRDA) established by Gov. Dannell Malloy to stimulate economic development and new investment in and around Hartford has served as an economic engine by providing gap financing and coordinating a significant number of public-private partnerships.

And although surveys indicated that downtown housing would be difficult to rent out, that prediction has been proven to be inaccurate. “Studies showed we would be lucky if five units a month were leased,” Bratt said. “But developers have been beating performance expectations and have been leasing 10 to 20 units a month.”

She added that the majority of renters come from outside of the city and are Millennials; the average age of people leasing new units is 40, although empty nesters also comprise a fair share of that population.

“Millennials don’t want to have a lot of property or a large house. They like to live in cities and a large number don’t have cars or a driver’s license,” Bratt contined.

Increasing the number of people who live downtown will balance the weekday versus weekend equation, because in recent years there has been a decided difference, as the population on weekends is reduced by 100,000 people.

“We’ve focused on establishing a balanced equilibrium and so far we have been very successful,” Bratt told BusinessWest. “The jobs are here and if residential living follows, retail growth will increase in response to it.”

The CRDA has also been working to expedite what Bronin referred to as a “long and stagnant development effort” on Front Street, which is finally coming into its own as a restaurant and entertainment district.

“It was a wasteland before, but now there’s a collection of retail shops and restaurants across from the Hartford Convention Center. They all involve new construction and have become a strong draw for residents,” Bronin said, explaining that the Front Street neighborhood includes the Marriott Hotel and the Connecticut Science Center, which attract large numbers of visitors as well as business travelers.

There is also a new 121-unit apartment building that was built as part of the second phase of the Front Street District development project that features 15,000 square feet of street-level retail space with five stories of studio and one and two-bedroom apartments priced at market rates.

For this edition, BusinessWest takes an inside look at major changes taking place in downtown Hartford that are expected to promote vibrancy and make the city an attractive place to live, work and play.

Laying the Groundwork

The University of Connecticut (UConn) left the city in 1970 and moved to West Hartford, but it is returning to its former home and creating a large campus downtown.

“It will really add energy and feet on the street,” Bronin said, adding that the university is part of the push to attract more educational facilities to the city because they have been shown to increase growth, diversity, and job options.

Indeed, UConn and city and state leaders have said the 220,000- square-foot downtown campus will transform the area into a thriving neighborhood with 2,300 students and 250 faculty members, especially since food service will be limited, which will make downtown eateries inviting.

The center of the UConn Greater Hartford Campus will be situated in the old Hartford Times building, which is undergoing a $115 million renovation. Its façade is being maintained, but the interior is being entirely renovated, and a three-story atrium and classroom building will be added to the back of the building. The new campus is expected to open sometime in 2017.

Other institutions of higher learning add to the mix. Bronin noted that Trinity College is a long-standing Hartford institution, the University of St. Joseph has its School of Pharmacy in a state-of-the art building downtown, and Capital Community College redeveloped the former G. Fox building 10 years ago.

“It was a huge risk for them, but they were early pioneers in downtown development,” he noted.

News is also taking place on the medical front: Hartford Hospital held a ribbon cutting earlier this month for its new $150 million Bone and Joint Institute downtown. Surgery is expected to begin next month and will help the hospital compete with leaders in bone and joint surgery in New York and Boston.

The new facility will create jobs and draw visitors and other medical professionals to Harford as is expected that the hospital will collaborate with other medical facilities. “Hartford Hospital is a growing major employer and has become a center for many medical subspecialties,” Bronin told BusinessWest. “We’ve worked closely with them on their new building and another one that is under construction on the southern edge of their downtown campus that will house a training center for robotic surgery, which is a program that brings in healthcare professionals from all over the country.”

The third critical pillar of economic development is transportation, and the planned increase in commuter rail service will make a difference, especially to people who choose to live or work downtown. Twenty trains a day are expected to start running in 2018 that will travel between Springfield and New Haven, Conn.

“They will be a major driver of economic growth and the combination of new housing, medical, and educational facilities will really support revitalization of a vibrant city center,” Bronin said, adding that the rail service will extend to New York, and the hope is that Massachusetts will complete the link between Worcester and Springfield.

Additional access to the city may come via the I-84 viaduct that runs over the city. Bronin said the roadway is reaching the end of its useful life and the Connecticut Department of Transportation is planning work that would lower sections and reconnect it to parts of the city.

Hartford also just adopted a Complete Streets policy, and earlier this month was feted as a Bicycle Friendly Community by The League: Bicycle Friendly America.

In addition, 10 streetscape projects are in various stages of development and two are finishing up downtown, that include widening the promenade that borders Bushnell Park.

Varied Ventures

Economic development is also taking place north of the downtown area. Chester Bowles Park public housing complex, which was built after World War II in the city’s Blue Hills neighborhood, is being demolished to make way for a new mixed-use development called Willow Creek. Hundreds of old buildings have been taken down and 62 mixed-income rentals and 29 town houses are being built as the first phase of the project, which will cost about $40 million.

The park is part of a larger, 130-acre complex that includes Westbrook Village, which contains 360 units of public housing on 65 acres that were also built after WWII. The plan is to demolish outdated structures and replace them with a mixed-use development that will include housing, retail, and commercial space.

Bronin said the project is especially significant because Westbrook Village fronts Albany Avenue, which is a main city corridor.

The CRDA has $20 million set aside for neighborhood development in the North End Promise Zone,” he told BusinessWest, explaining that the federal designation gives the area priority in terms of funding because it has been deemed “high need.”

Entrepreneurship in Harford is also poised to grow, thanks to two projects.

Avon residents Bryan Patton and his wife Devra Sisitsky have raised $1.3 million to build the state’s largest Maker Space at the Colt Armory Complex. They hope to attract 400 members and plan to outfit the space with CNC machines, lathes, a sand-blasting booth, a water-jet cutting machine, a metal-fabrication area, design software and monitors, 3D printers and other equipment that could be used by hobbyists and professionals for a monthly fee.

Another space for start-ups known as Innovate Hartford recently opened at 20 Church St. with the goal of bringing in 100 high-tech companies a year to a 27,500-square-foot space in Stilts Building.

Bronin said the former Colt Armory was one of the first factories in the nation and a tremendous amount of repurposing has been done there.

“The city has partnered with the state and private investors to revitalize the residential neighborhood and attract new commercial tenants,” he noted, adding that the National Park Service adopted a large portion of the complex and turned two buildings into a museum that will become part of a national park.

The Capewell Horse Shoe Nail Company building, which is a 10-minute walk from downtown, fell into disrepair about 30 years ago but has also been redeveloped.

“The Corporation for Independent Living purchased it, turned it into apartments and began leasing them a few weeks ago,”Bratt noted, explaining that the building is one of about 15 properties that have been under construction, with the majority being renovated for residential use.

“They include diverse options; some are affordable housing and others are market-rate,” she said. “Hartford is a wonderful choice for anyone interested in an urban lifestyle.”

Ongoing Progress

Officials say attracting Millennials to the city, bolstering transportation options, creating new maker space, and adding new medical and educational facilities will make a real difference in downtown Hartford’s vitality.

“Revitalization all comes down to feet on the street, and that is increasing,” Bratt said. “Progress is a patchwork quilt of individual projects slowly knit together over time and each one of these projects is a patch that will help make the city more beautiful, walkable, and connected.”

 

Hartford at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1784
Population: 125,432 (2014)
Area: 17.95 square miles
County: Hartford
Residential Tax Rate: $74.29 (at 30% of fair market value)
Commercial Tax Rate: $74.29 (at 70% of fair market value)
Median Household Income: $72,275 (2015)
Family Household Income: $91,759 (2015)
Type of Government: Mayor, City Council
Largest Employers: State of Connecticut, Hartford; United Technologies Corp.; Yale New Haven Health System
* Latest information available

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

Denise Menard and Robyn Macdonald

Denise Menard and Robyn Macdonald say the gas station and convenience store under construction at 227 Shaker Road will give people in the southern portion of town access to needed services.

East Longmeadow has grown and flourished in recent years thanks to its excellent schools, pastoral landscape, and thriving Industrial Garden District, where manicured lawns and flower gardens belie the scope of commercial and manufacturing companies that do business there.

However, last year, the town’s bucolic character was upset by repeated controversy that was ignited and fueled by reports of corruption. “The town went through a year of turmoil, and some businesses were hesitant to move here due to the negative publicity,” said Robyn Macdonald, the town’s Planning, Zoning Board, and Conservation director.

She added that these issues were essentially put to rest in April when residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new charter that replaced the town meeting and three-member Board of Selectmen with a town manager and Town Council that features seven elected members.

Its first official meeting was staged July 1, and a few weeks later, former East Windsor, Conn. First Selectman Denise Menard was hired as interim town manager.

“The charter expanded the town’s leadership, and work has already been done to preserve the good things that exist here, while promoting healthy living and balanced growth,” Macdonald said.

To that end, plans are in place to establish East Longmeadow’s first human resources department. In addition, several new positions have been added that include a director of finance; a director of Planning and Community Development; and a full-time health director. Aimee Petrosky was recently hired to fill that role and is working with the newly appointed three-member Board of Health.

She told BusinessWest that the town held its first flu clinic last month, which was highly successful and will be repeated next year. In the meantime, the board plans to seek funding to vaccinate uninsured residents, and the next event will include the shingles vaccine.

Other changes include a new sharps-disposal program that offers disposal units to residents at an affordable price because they can be cost-prohibitive; new regulations that make it illegal to smoke any type of tobacco, including e-cigarettes and vapor cigarettes, within 50 feet of a public building; a fine policy for restaurateurs who fail to comply with health regulations; and new rules that require companies that serve or produce food to install traps to prevent grease from entering sewers and affecting business operations or private residences.

“The Health Department also recently purchased an electronic inspection system that will post the outcomes of health inspections online,” Petrosky said, noting that food-safety training sessions were held for the School Department, the Council on Aging, and at churches that requested it to insure that the most vulnerable populations are protected.

Menard applauds these changes because they add to the town’s offerings, and notes that, when a permanent town manager is named, it will be important for the person to promote intelligent economic development and take a proactive stance in attracting new businesses.

“There is room for growth in the underutilized areas of our industrial and commercial sections of town,” she said.

Macdonald agrees, and says there are a few dormant parcels they hope to fill in the future, including the long-vacant Package Machinery site. “East Longmeadow has always welcomed new businesses, but we try to maintain a good balance between residential and business growth,” she noted.

For this, the latest installment of its Community Spotlight series, BusinessWest looks at projects on the drawing board as well as developments underway that will help East Longmeadow retain its small-town character while offering new venues that will boost the tax base and provide services for people who live and work in the town.

Major Projects

Officials are happy that several sites in town that have been vacant for more than a decade are being redeveloped.

For example, L.E. Belcher broke ground three months ago on a 6,500-square-foot convenience store with five gas pumps, 10 pumping stations, three outdoor tables, and 28 parking spaces on a lot at 227 Shaker Road that was empty for many years.

The company has secured a license to sell wine and beer, and worked closely with the Planning Board to ensure the new business is a good fit for the town. Ownership has installed flashing pedestrian safety lights to facilitate safety on the Chestnut Street side of the Redstone Rail Trail that runs behind the property, and contributed to a mitigation fund that will assist the Department of Public Works with roadway and traffic improvements in the Shaker Road and Chestnut Street corridor.

“It’s a busy intersection, and their gift of $25,000 to the DPW was a great gesture from a new business,” Menard said.

Macdonald concurred. “L.E. Belcher is a community-minded company, and the facility they are building will provide the industrial area with a service that doesn’t exist in that part of town. There is nothing like it from there until Route I-90 in Enfield, and it is expected to bring in people from Connecticut, while reducing congestion at the rotary,” she said, adding that the new convenience store and gas station are expected to open in mid- or late January.

A new restaurant called Green/Wich is also under construction at 16 Maple St. on the rotary. The eatery’s plans were recently approved, and the owner has also secured a beer and wine license.

“It’s a great addition to our center, and we’re happy to have a building that sat empty for many years put to use by a business that will help people attain a healthy lifestyle. It will offer high-end wraps and salads with indoor seating,” Menard said.

Macdonald told BusinessWest that Green/Wich had to do a major renovation of the building that included asbestos abatement, and has worked closely with the town to ensure the restaurant meets all safety requirements when it opens in about a month.

Several businesses in the town are experiencing rapid growth, including Go Graphix, which relocated from a shopping plaza on North Main Street to a 5,000-square-foot space on Benton Drive in the industrial park several years ago.

“The organization takes a concept through design, production, and installation. Their focus is on individual brands and messaging, and they incorporate big-picture objectives while paying close attention to the smallest details,” Macdonald said. “They have done so well, they are planning a 2,584-square-foot addition to their existing building. “

That project is still in the planning stages, but in September the Planning Board approved construction of an 18,000-square-foot medical office building on 250 North Main St.

The new, two-story structure will be constructed by Associated Builders for Baystate Dental Group and will have 90 parking spaces. The dental office will occupy the first floor, and the second floor will be rented as medical or office space.

Two other significant projects were also recently proposed. The first is an expansion: Excel Dryer wants to put an addition onto its existing building at 357 Chestnut St. that will include 1,300 square feet of warehouse space and 3,700 square feet of office space.

“This is a family-owned and -operated company that revolutionized the industry and set a new standard for performance, reliability, and customer satisfaction,” Macdonald said. “They have continued to grow, and the addition will enhance their ability to move forward in the future.”

The second project is much more complex, as it involves the towns of East Longmeadow and Longmeadow.

Macdonald said the planning boards in both towns have been working with Michael Crowley of Michael Crowley Associates and Middle Franklin Development, Robert Levesque of R. Levesque Associates Inc., David Dunlop of David Dunlop Associates, and Fuss & O’Neill to create a medical complex that will add to East Longmeadow Skilled Nursing Center at 305 Maple St., cross town lines, and provide benefits to both communities.

Crowley presented plans for the project in June. It includes four structures on a 20-acre site: a 50,000-square-foot medical office building in Longmeadow that would be occupied by Baystate Health; a two-story, 25,000-square-foot conventional office building in East Longmeadow; and an assisted-living facility and an expansion of the existing skilled-nursing facility that would be run by Berkshire Health in the town.

“The complex will feature state-of-the-art technology and have every safety system installed possible, including fire alarms, an emergency generator, and rooftop units with individual room controls,” Macdonald said, explaining that the two towns have commissioned a traffic study to mitigate any problems that could result from the project because it will affect some of their busiest intersections, namely Benton Drive and Chestnut Street in East Longmeadow, the Converse Street area in Longmeadow, and that town’s intersection at Dwight Road, Williams Street, and Maple Street.

Work in Progress

The Department of Public Works has an ongoing project that involves installing new sidewalks in East Longmeadow’s center and around the schools to make pedestrian travel safe and help make the town more desirable.

Historically, that hasn’t been a problem.

“Businesses are thriving in East Longmeadow and want to stay here,” Macdonald said, explaining that, although the town doesn’t have its own utility companies, manufacturers in the Industrial Garden District including Sullivan Paper Co., Tiger Press, and the recently sold Lenox Newell Rubbermaid have installed solar panels on their roofs, and panels have also been approved for the Reminder building in the commercial district.

“We still have plenty of room for new companies, and the opportunities here are great. The town welcomes large and small businesses, and our Industrial Garden District is a beautiful area which is easy to get to from I-91,” she noted.

Indeed, the negative publicity has come to an end, the town is moving forward, and the future looks bright for residents and businesses alike.

East Longmeadow at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1894
Population: 15,720 (2010)
Area: 13.0 square miles
County: Hampden
Residential Tax Rate: $21.12
Commercial Tax Rate: $21.12
Median Household Income: $78,835
Median Family Income: $99,707
Type of Government: Town Council; Town Manager
Largest Employers: Cartamundi; Redstone Rehab and Nursing Center; Lenox Newell Rubbermaid
* Latest information available

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts recently launched its redesigned website, adclubwm.org, with the assistance of Envision Marketing Group of East Longmeadow.

“It’s been on our radar screen for months, and we finally pulled the trigger on the redesign project with the help of our communications committee, headed by Gary Czelusniak, interim communications director,” said David Cecchi, Ad Club president. “For too long, we were like the cobbler’s children without shoes.”

The Ad Club’s new website is organized into three distinct sections: enroll, engage, and explore. The objective is to create an electronic user experience that is responsive with mobile devices, relevant, elegant, and simple to navigate. ‘Enroll’ allows visitors to understand the value of becoming an Ad Club member or sponsor, view the club’s leadership, and access the club’s current members. ‘Engage’ provides information and an online reservation system to attend the array of Ad Club engagement opportunities throughout the year. ‘Explore’ is a resource featuring the ‘Chatter,’ providing news and information about the club and its members, as well as a job-posting service.

At the same time, the Ad Club revamped its social-media strategies on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and added an Instagram account.

“The method in which the club engages its membership and prospective members, and vice versa, has absolutely changed forever,” Czelusniak said, “and we must continuously adapt — simply, relevantly, and elegantly.”

Building Permits Departments

The following building permits were issued during the month of July 2016.

Agawam

SBA Towers II, LLC
369 Main St.
$15,000 — Swap three existing cell antennas with three newer- technology cell antennas
Amherst

25 Avocado St. LLC
292 College St.
$5376 — Replace doors and patch hole in shop ceiling

Amherst Cinema Arts Center Inc.
28 Amity St., Unit 1H
$137,004 — Install 110 solar panels on roof

Amherst-Presidential Village LLC
950 Pleasant St.
$591,180 — Construct 3,300-square-foot building to service residents

Woodgreen Amherst Limited Partnership
6 University Dr., 109
$3000 — Creating dividing wall, separating an open class space

Ev Realty Trust
11 Amity St.
$225,000 — Renovate former bank space to co-worker office

Hadley

Public Safety Complex
15 East St.
$3,650 — Create walkway in attic to access heating and cooling units

Northampton

293 Northampton Realty LLC, c/o William Lia
263 King St.
$1,060,000 — 6,000-square-foot addition to the existing facility and 1,064 sq. ft. to service drive

Button Street Associates
32 Masonic St.
$3,200 — Replace and fix four windows

City of Northampton, Smith School
Haydenville Road
$70,000 — Construct 36’ x 70’ storage building

Colvest/Northampton LLC
327 King St.
$30,000 — Modify antennas and equipment on existing cell site

Coolidge Park Condos
50 Union St.
$27,226 — Repair stairs on Cherry Street side

Dimension Realty LLC
395 Pleasant St.
$32,548 — Install membrane roof system over existing metal roof

First Congregational Church of Northampton
129 Main St.
$14,400 — Remove and replace pews, carpet, and railings

Raps Real Estate
79 Masonic St.
$496,000 — Renovate existing and add 1,341-square-foot addition

Smith College Office of Treasurer
College Lane
$15,000 — Replace 1,600-square-foot EDPM roofing

Smith College Office of Treasurer
College Lane
$234,500 — Construct new dormer

Springfield

A. Boilard Sons Inc.
210 Verge St.
$26,407 — Partial reroof of warehouse

Baystate Health
257 Marvin St.
$480,000 — Foundation for new CHP Building

Blue Tarp ReDevelopment Inc.
MGM Way
$213,883,377 — Core and shell of hotel and podium type 1A construction

Blue Tarp ReDevelopment Inc.
1214 MGM Way
$2,456,563 — Install underground utilities under hotel and podium slab Type 1A construction

Caron Management LLC
116-120 Longhill St., Unit #7C
$193,961.85 — Renovations

Cellco Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless
90 Memorial Drive
$12,322 — Remove nine existing antenna panels and replace with nine updated antenna panels and install 6 remote radio heads, on an existing telecommunications tower

GF Enterprise LLC
456 Sumner Ave
$41,700 — Install new slat walls, canopies, sconce lights. New interior artwork package

Mulberry House Condominium Trust
101 Mulberry St.
$60,000 — Replacement of concrete precast panels (exterior) with EFLS panels to match. Historical Commission has approved.

Paul’s Crane Service
700 Berkshire Ave.
$40,940 — Reroofing

St. George Cathedral
2320 Main St.
$55,000 — Demolish existing bathrooms in basement and put back with new finishes. H/C accessible bathrooms

Sunset Properties LLC
216, 218, and 220 Pearl St.
$400,000 — Demolition of existing five story wooden stairs at buildings 216, 218, 220 and construction of new steel framed stairs with concrete footing foundation system

Trammell Crow Co.
1500 Main St.
$74,500 — Pharmacy remodel

West Springfield

Dr. Frederick Frangie
274 Westfield St.
$78,586 — Replace roof

Medeiros Realty
1111 Elm St.
$121,254 — Reroof A & B roofs front and middle sections

Nutmeg International Trucks
268 Park St.
$2,000 — Remove existing steel structures embedded in concrete floor, patch concrete floor as required

Westfield

T-Mobile Northeast LLC
16 Chestnut St., Suite 420
$15,000 — Addition to existing installation

Law Sections

By Jennifer Butler

Jennifer Butler

Jennifer Butler

Nonprofit organizations face a multitude of compliance issues every day, and keeping up with them can be a challenge. Because compliance failures may result in the loss of funding, organizations need to know what the current applicable regulations are and make sure their programs conform to them.

For providers of home and community-based services, that means understanding the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) updated regulations and ensuring their programs comply with them. Referred to collectively as the ‘community rule,’ the CMS regulations are intended to provide individuals receiving long-term services and supports with full access to the benefits of community living and the opportunity to receive services in the most integrated settings possible.

All providers who operate home and community-based services (HCBS) programs under sections 1915(c), 1915(i), and 1915(k) of the Medicaid statute, in both residential and non-residential settings, are subject to the rule.

While much of the community rule focuses on states’ responsibilities, providers are responsible for bringing their programs into compliance with the regulations in two key areas: settings requirements and person-centered planning. Providers who operate residential programs must also ensure that their programs satisfy the additional requirements specific to provider-owned or -controlled residential settings.

Home and Community-based Settings Requirements

All HCBS providers must ensure their programs meet certain settings requirements outlined in the community rule. The goal of the rule’s settings requirements is to maximize participants’ access to the benefits of community living and enable them to receive services in the most integrated setting. Per the rule, HCBS settings must:

• Be integrated in and support full access to the greater community;
• Allow the individual to select the setting from among setting options, including non-disability specific settings and an option for a private unit in a residential setting;
• Provide individuals with opportunities to seek employment and work in competitive integrated settings, engage in community life, and control personal resources;
• Ensure the individual receives services in the community to the same degree of access as individuals not receiving Medicaid home and community-based services;
• Ensure the individual’s rights of privacy, dignity, respect, and freedom from coercion and restraint;
• Optimize individual initiative, autonomy, and independence in making life choices; and
• Facilitate individual choices regarding services and supports, and who provides them.

Additional Requirements for Provider-owned Residential Settings

In addition to the general settings requirements, the community rule imposes further requirements on providers operating programs in provider-owned or -controlled residential settings. Per the rule, residential settings must:

• Provide the individual with a lease or other legally enforceable agreement providing similar protections;
• Ensure the individual has privacy in their unit, including lockable doors, choice of roommates, and freedom to furnish or decorate the unit;
• Allow the individual to control his or her own schedule, including access to food at any time;
• Provide that the individual can have visitors at any time; and
• Be physically accessible.

Any modification of the additional requirements for residential settings must be supported by a specific assessed need and justified in a person-centered service plan. For example, if the provider determines that it would be unsafe for a particular individual in its care to have lockable doors, the provider must document that need in the service plan.

Person-centered Planning

Finally, the community rule requires that service plans be developed for all program participants through a person-centered planning process which results in a plan that reflects his or her unique goals and preferences.  The person-centered planning process must:

• Be driven by the individual;
• Include people chosen by the individual;
• Reflect cultural considerations and use plain language;
• Offer choices to the individual regarding services and supports the individual receives and from whom;
• Include strategies for solving disagreement;
• Provide a method to request updates;
• Identify the strengths, preferences, needs (clinical and support), and desired outcomes of the individual; and
• Include individually identified goals and preferences related to relationships, community participation, employment, income and savings, healthcare and wellness, and education.

Additional planning-process requirements, as well as specific requirements for person-centered service plans, are also outlined in the rule.

All providers of community-based programs should carefully review them to make certain they fully comply with the community rule. Some requirements of the rule, such as the provision regarding leases, may raise complex legal issues that are best addressed by an attorney. Providers are encouraged to consult with counsel if they have any questions about bringing their HCBS programs into compliance with the community rule.

Jennifer Butler, Esq. specializes exclusively in management-side labor and employment law at Royal, P.C., a woman-owned, boutique, management-side labor and employment law firm, which is certified as a women’s business enterprise with the Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office, the National Assoc. of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms, and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council; (413) 586-2288; [email protected]

Agenda Departments

‘Wolf to Woof’

Through May 12: In today’s society, dogs enhance the lives of millions of people in countless ways, but they are also some of our oldest friends. Ancient clues like cave paintings and burials reveal that dogs and people have lived together for thousands of years. But why have humans formed such close relationships with dogs, and not cows or chickens? “Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs” is the largest and most comprehensive traveling exhibition ever created on the history, biology, and evolution of dogs. The exhibit, on view at the Springfield Science Museum through May 12, attempts to sniff out the facts on dogs and explore what makes the human/dog relationship so unique. It uses the familiarity and love of these four-legged friends to explore science and biological concepts. The exhibit has four themed sections including multi-media displays, artifacts, photo murals, and dioramas of taxidermied wild canines and sculpted modern dog breeds. Additionally, interactive, hands-on components demonstrate key exhibit concepts. For example, visitors can enter a ‘howling area’ and guess what dogs are saying, test their nose against a dog’s great sense of smell, and examine fossil and genetic evidence of how modern-day dogs are descended from wolves. “Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs” is sponsored by United Bank. MassMutual is the 2015-16 Premier Sponsor of the Springfield Museums.

Valley Gives Day

May 3: Nearly 500 community organizations will participate in the Pioneer Valley’s 24-hour e-philanthropy event, Valley Gives — the fourth year for the event, but the first time it is being held in the spring. Valley Gives is hosted by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. Valley Gives will take place from 12 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Participating community organizations span the Pioneer Valley and are eligible if their work is focused on Franklin, Hampden, or Hampshire county. Organizations include nonprofits, schools and educational institutions, places of worship/religious organizations, and local community groups that can be fiscally sponsored by nonprofit organizations. Since Valley Gives began in December 2012, $5.8 million has been raised from more than 24,000 donors in support of 559 nonprofits that are doing good work in every corner of the Pioneer Valley. With nearly 500 organizations signed on to participate this May, Valley Gives is expected to add substantially to those numbers again this year.

Kentucky Derby Day

May 7: Starting at 4:30 p.m., the Colony Club in Springfield will the setting for hats, horses and hors d’oeuvres to celebrate the 142nd annual Kentucky Derby. Presented by The Gaudreau Group, with support from Northeast IT, as well as the Colony Club and host Jeffrey Lomma, the event will raise much-needed funds for Square One’s programs and services. Tickets are $35 and include big screen monitors to enjoy the race, hearty hors d’oeuvres, and a complimentary mint julep. Prizes will be awarded for the best Derby attire. Tickets may be purchased via Eventbrite or by contacting Heather at Inspired Marketing at (413) 303-0101.

‘Creating a Western Massachusetts Renaissance’

May 11: The Springfield Regional Chamber, in partnership with the Western Mass. Economic Development Council (EDC), will present a panel discussion, “Creating a Western Massachusetts Renaissance,” from 7:15 to 9 a.m. at the MassMutual Center, 1277 Main St., Springfield, sponsored by People’s United Bank. Panelists will discuss the Massachusetts economy and how communities across the Commonwealth can work together to create a broader and more robust economy. Panelists will also outline local economic-development initiatives at work in Western Mass. and how the region can capitalize on its existing assets and develop its growth engines, and the important role the healthcare sector plays in developing centers of excellence for future growth. Panelists will include John Traynor, executive vice president and chief investment officer at People’s United Bank; Rick Sullivan, EDC president; and Dr. Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health, and the discussion will be moderated by David Hobert, the bank’s regional president. Reservations for the breakfast event are $35 and may be made online at www.springfieldregionalchamber.com or by e-mailing Sarah Mazzaferro at [email protected].

Community Enterprises 40th-Anniversary Luncheon

May 12: Richard Venne, president and CEO, invites the public to join Community Enterprises Inc. in celebrating 40 years of empowering individuals with disabilities to live, learn, work, and thrive in the community. A luncheon will be held at the Log Cabin in Holyoke from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Individual tickets are $50 per person, a reserved table for eight is $400, and tickets for clients and staff of Community Enterprise are $30. For more information about tickets, sponsoring the event, or placing an ad in the program, e-mail Krystle Bernier at [email protected] or call (413) 584-1460, ext. 120. Community Enterprises is a human-service organization that provides employment, education, housing supports, and day supports for people with disabilities. Headquartered in Northampton, it maintains 27 service locations in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Kentucky. Massachusetts offices include Gloucester, Greenfield, Holyoke, Pittsfield, Plymouth, Salem, Somerville, Springfield, Wakefield, and Worcester.

‘Maximize Your Website for Business Growth’

May 13, 20, 27: MarketingWorks, a series of educational programs for business owners, marketing professionals, and entrepreneurs hosted by Stevens 470 in Westfield, announced an upcoming program called “Maximize Your Website for Business Growth.” It meets weekly for three Friday mornings, May 13, 20, and 27. Customers, prospects, and associates make an immediate assessment of a business based on the content of its website. Participants in this group program will evaluate their current website and clarify the steps needed to make it the company’s most valuable marketing channel. For program details, visit www.stevens470.com/educational-programs.html or call Tina Stevens at (413) 568-2660.

Youth Mental-health First-aid Training

May 13, 20: Funded by a three-year grant by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) through the White House’s “Now is The Time” initiative, Clinical & Support Options Inc. is now offering free youth mental-health first-aid trainings to the community. The free, two-day training will be held at CSO’s administrative offices in Northampton; attendance both days is required. Youth mental-health first aid is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health or addiction challenge or is in crisis. The training is primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. The course introduces common mental-health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a five-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including ADHD), and eating disorders. Identified on SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices, the training helps the public better identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses. Registration is required; e-mail [email protected] for a registration form. CSO is also available to bring this training on site to local agencies and businesses that wish to have a group of people trained for free. For more information on bringing this training to your agency or business, contact Allison Garriss, director, Business Development and Projects at CSO, at (413) 773-1314, ext. 5502 or [email protected].

‘Grieving the Death of a Child’ Workshop

May 14: The Garden: A Center for Grieving Children and Teens announced a free workshop, “Grieving the Death of a Child,” from 12:30 to 4 p.m. The workshop is open to adult parents and caregivers who have experienced the death of a child. The workshop will include a screening of the video “Helping Parents Grieve: Finding New Life After the Death of a Child,” which was produced by Paraclete Press and features real stories about families who have lost a child. The video has five parts, including knowing you are not alone, loss of hopes and dreams, death of a baby, families, and honoring and remembering. Following each section there will be a break for discussion and an activity. Parents and caregivers who have experienced the death of a child are welcome, and there are no limits on how, where, or when the child died. The workshop is for appropriate for adults only and is open to the public. It will be held at the Cooley Dickinson VNA & Hospice, 168 Industrial Dr., Northampton. The event is free, but registration is required. For more information, contact Shelly Bathe Lenn, coordinator at the Garden, at (413) 582 5312, or [email protected].

Mental Health and Wellness Fair

May 18: In celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month, Clinical & Support Options Inc. (CSO) will host its 14th annual Mental Health and Wellness Fair at the Energy Park in Greenfield from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Featuring CSO’s Green River House and Quabbin House Clubhouse members, the fair will be an afternoon of music, singing, poetry, and testimonials by members to highlight mental-health illness, wellness, and recovery. The fair started in 2002 in an effort to bring awareness and information to the community about mental-health illness and recovery. The event is an opportunity to dispel the stigma around mental-health illness, encourage people to seek support, and spotlight agencies available to assist. This year, the theme is “Mental Health Matters.” Local mental-health and wellness providers are welcome to present their materials and programming for free by registering for a table by calling the Green River House at (413) 772-2181. In addition to local community providers sharing information, there will be live music, a food vendor, and raffles, and WHAI will be on site doing a live broadcast. For questions or more information on how to be a part of this event, call the Green River House at (413) 772-2181.

‘Women Lead Change’

May 23: The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (WFWM) will host “Women Lead Change,” a celebration of the Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact (LIPPI) class of 2016, at the Log Cabin in Holyoke from 6 to 8 p.m. The event will include remarks from Mass. Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, and a keynote address from Julie Chavez Rodriguez, special assistant to the president and senior deputy director of Public Engagement at the White House. WFWM will acknowledge the lieutenant governor as well as Rodriguez with a “She Changes the World” award presented to honor exceptional contribution to social change, creating economic and social equity for women and girls. More than 300 participants are expected to attend the annual celebration of graduates of the Women’s Fund LIPPI program. LIPPI is the only program of its kind in Massachusetts. Through 11 sessions over eight months, the program is designed to respond to the shortage of women stepping into leadership at all levels. LIPPI gives women the tools and confidence they need to become more involved as civic leaders in their communities and to impact policy on the local, state, and national levels. The event is open to the public with online registration at www.womensfund.net. The current graduating LIPPI Cohort  represents 60% women of color, and LIPPI graduates also embody a wide spectrum of backgrounds, ethnic groups, and ages with ranges from 18 to 60. They represent the entire state of Massachusetts, from the Berkshires to Boston-area counties. Together, graduates form a strong cohort of like-minded women who support each other when they run for office, meet with policy makers, form coalitions, and get-out-the-vote efforts. The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (WFWM) is a public foundation that invests in local women and girls through strategic grant-making and leadership development. Since 1997 the Women’s Fund has awarded more than $2 million in grants to over 100 organizations in Western Mass.

40 Under Forty

June 16: The 10th annual 40 Under Forty award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke, honoring 40 of the region’s rising stars under 40 years old. An independent panel of judges has chosen the winners, and their stories were told in the April 18 issue. This is a sell-out event, and only a limited number of standing-room-only tickets remain. The event is sponsored by Northwestern Mutual and Paragus Strategic IT (presenting sponsors), EMA Dental, Health New England, Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, Moriarty & Primack, United Bank, and the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield. For more information, call (413) 781-8600s, ext. 100.

Agenda Departments

‘Wolf to Woof’ Exhibit

Through May 12: In today’s society, dogs enhance the lives of millions of people in countless ways, but they are also some of our oldest friends. Ancient clues like cave paintings and burials reveal that dogs and people have lived together for thousands of years. But why have humans formed such close relationships with dogs, and not cows or chickens? “Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs” is the largest and most comprehensive traveling exhibition ever created on the history, biology, and evolution of dogs. The exhibit, on view at the Springfield Science Museum through May 12, attempts to sniff out the facts on dogs and explore what makes the human/dog relationship so unique. It uses the familiarity and love of these four-legged friends to explore science and biological concepts. The exhibit has four themed sections including multi-media displays, artifacts, photo murals, and dioramas of taxidermied wild canines and sculpted modern dog breeds. Additionally, interactive, hands-on components demonstrate key exhibit concepts. For example, visitors can enter a ‘howling area’ and guess what dogs are saying, test their nose against a dog’s great sense of smell, and examine fossil and genetic evidence of how modern-day dogs are descended from wolves.

‘125 Years Of Memories’ at Academy of Music

April 21: The Academy of Music Theatre will host a “125 Years of Memories” benefit at 6:30 p.m. in the theater. In the late 19th century, Edward H.R. Lyman, a philanthropist and Northampton native, had a vision for a new venue for culture and theater in his hometown. On May 23, 1891, the 800-seat Academy of Music Theatre opened its doors to the public for the first time, and it quickly became a favorite stop on tours of leading troupes and big-name performers. Today, the 800-seat Academy of Music has been renovated and reclaimed as a venue for live theater, as well as dance, film, music, and performing-arts education. The “125 Years of Memories” benefit will begin with a cash bar reception in the lobby, where guests will mingle and enjoy hors d’oeuvres, craft beer, and wine. In addition, silent-auction items donated by local businesses and artists will be on display. At 6:30 p.m., guests will move into the theater for a brief program, paying tribute to the Academy through the decades. Following the production, attendees will be invited onstage for the party, with musical accompaniment by jazz pianist Jerry Noble, appetizers from River Valley Market, craft beer, and wine provided by Black Birch Vineyard. Tickets for the event are $50, and can be purchased online at www.aomtheatre.com. For those who prefer to pay by check, tickets are available at the Academy of Music Theatre box office, Tuesday through Friday, from 3 to 6 p.m. Any questions can be directed to Development Coordinator Kathryn Slater at (413) 584-9032, ext. 101, or [email protected]

Spring Sip & Shop

April 28: The Arbors at Chicopee will host a Spring Sip & Shop event in honor of Mother’s Day on Thursday, April 28 from 4 to 8 p.m. at 929 Memorial Dr. More than 15 vendors will gather and display their products for sale. Items include scarves, jewelry, totes, bags, makeup, homemade lotions and soaps, and much more. The event is sponsored by Tastefully Simple, and all proceeds will go toward the Alzheimer’s Assoc. The event will feature a silent auction, raffle, passed hors d’ouvres, and complimentary sangria. The suggested donation upon admission is $5. RSVP by calling Noelle at (413) 593-0088 or e-mailing [email protected] Walk-ins are welcome.

‘A Night of Laughter’

April 30: Smith & Wesson will host its annual live comedy show, “A Night of Laughter,” to support two local children’s charities, Shriners Hospitals for Children and the Ronald McDonald House. The event will be held at the Cedars Banquet Facility, 419 Island Pond Road in Springfield. The show will feature two comedians, Chris Zito and Tony V. Zito is a mainstay of the Boston comedy scene and made appearances on Comedy Central, USA, A&E, and NESN. He has been heard on New England radio for more than 20 years, and currently “Zito and Kera” can be heard on weekday mornings on Mix 93.1. Tony V started his comedy career in 1982 in Boston. In 1986, he was named “Funniest Person in Massachusetts” by Showtime. He has also appeared on HBO, A&E, Comedy Central, and MTV. His big-screen performances include State and Main, Celtic Pride, Housesitter, One Crazy Summer, and Shakes the Clown. The doors will open at 5:30 p.m., and the comedy will begin at 7:15 p.m. Tickets are $35 per person and include an evening of laughs, hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, cash bar, raffles, and more. Tickets are now available at eventbrite.com. For more information, contact Elaine Stellato at (413) 747-3371 or [email protected].

Community Enterprises 40-Year Luncheon

May 12: Richard Venne, president and CEO, invites the public to join Community Enterprises Inc. in celebrating 40 years of empowering individuals with disabilities to live, learn, work, and thrive in the community. A luncheon will be held at the Log Cabin in Holyoke from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Individual tickets are $50 per person, a reserved table for eight is $400, and tickets for clients and staff of Community Enterprise are $30. For more information about tickets, sponsoring the event, or placing an ad in the program, e-mail Krystle Bernier at [email protected] or call (413) 584-1460, ext. 120.

‘Maximize Your Website for Business Growth’

May 13, 20, 27: MarketingWorks, a series of educational programs for business owners, marketing professionals, and entrepreneurs hosted by Stevens 470 in Westfield, announced an upcoming program called “Maximize Your Website for Business Growth.” It meets weekly for three Friday mornings, May 13, 20, and 27. Customers, prospects, and associates make an immediate assessment of a business based on the content of its website. Participants in this group program will evaluate their current website and clarify the steps needed to make it the company’s most valuable marketing channel. For program details, visit www.stevens470.com/educational-programs.html or call Tina Stevens at (413) 568-2660.

Youth Mental-health First-aid Training

May 13, 20: Funded by a three-year grant by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) through the White House’s “Now is The Time” initiative, Clinical & Support Options Inc. is now offering free youth mental-health first-aid trainings to the community. The free, two-day training will be held at CSO’s administrative offices in Northampton; attendance both days is required. Youth mental-health first aid is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health or addiction challenge or is in crisis. The training is primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. The course introduces common mental-health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a five-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including ADHD), and eating disorders. Registration is required; e-mail [email protected] for a registration form. CSO is also available to bring this training on site to local agencies and businesses that wish to have a group of people trained for free. For more information on bringing this training to your agency or business, contact Allison Garriss, director, Business Development and Projects at Clinical & Support Options, at (413) 773-1314, ext. 5502 or [email protected].

‘Grieving the Death of a Child’ Workshop

May 14: The Garden: A Center for Grieving Children and Teens announced a free workshop, “Grieving the Death of a Child,” from 12:30 to 4 p.m. The workshop is open to adult parents and caregivers who have experienced the death of a child. The workshop will include a screening of the video “Helping Parents Grieve: Finding New Life After the Death of a Child,” which was produced by Paraclete Press and features real stories about families who have lost a child. The video has five parts, including knowing you are not alone, loss of hopes and dreams, death of a baby, families, and honoring and remembering. Following each section there will be a break for discussion and an activity. Parents and caregivers who have experienced the death of a child are welcome, and there are no limits on how, where, or when the child died. The workshop is for appropriate for adults only and is open to the public. It will be held at the Cooley Dickinson VNA & Hospice, 168 Industrial Dr., Northampton. The event is free, but registration is required. For more information, contact Shelly Bathe Lenn, coordinator at the Garden, at (413) 582 5312, or [email protected]

Mental Health and Wellness Fair

May 18: In celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month, Clinical & Support Options Inc. (CSO) will host its 14th annual Mental Health and Wellness Fair at the Energy Park in Greenfield from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Featuring CSO’s Green River House and Quabbin House Clubhouse members, the fair will be an afternoon of music, singing, poetry, and testimonials by members to highlight mental-health illness, wellness, and recovery. The fair started in 2002 in an effort to bring awareness and information to the community about mental-health illness and recovery. The event is an opportunity to dispel the stigma around mental-health illness, encourage people to seek support, and spotlight agencies available to assist. This year, the theme is “Mental Health Matters.” Local mental-health and wellness providers are welcome to present their materials and programming for free by registering for a table by calling the Green River House at (413) 772-2181. In addition to local community providers sharing information, there will be live music, a food vendor, and raffles, and WHAI will be on site doing a live broadcast. For more information, call the Green River House at (413) 772-2181.

40 Under Forty

June 16: The 10th annual 40 Under Forty award program, staged by BusinessWest, will be held at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke, honoring 40 of the region’s rising stars under 40 years old. An independent panel of judges has chosen the winners, and their stories are told in the pages of this issue. The event is sponsored by Northwestern Mutual (presenting sponsor), Paragus Strategic IT (presenting sponsor), EMA Dental, Health New England, the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, Moriarty & Primack P.C., United Bank, and the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield.

Sections Technology

Model Business

3DprintingDPart

3D printing is hardly a new development, but its applications have rapidly expanded over the past decade as companies use it to produce both inexpensive design prototypes and large runs of manufactured parts. Connecticut-based ACT Group has been at the forefront of this revolution regionally, selling and servicing 3D-printing equipment for a wide range of clients in myriad industries. Its success mirrors that of a technology that, clearly, is no longer flying under the radar.

 

When it comes to the capabilities and applications of 3D printing, Nick Gondek said, “the sky’s the limit.” Which is why he’s glad his company, ACT Group, has established a strong presence in that field.

Specifically, the firm — based in Cromwell, Conn. and formerly known as Advanced Copy Technologies — sells and services 3D printing equipment to a wide range of clients in fields as diverse as aerospace, medicine, and shoe manufacturing.

The company’s bread and butter, said Gondek, the company’s director of Additive Manufacturing and applications engineer, is a process called rapid prototyping, by which manufacturers can produce individual 3D models of potential products much more quickly and cost-effectively than previously possible.

Take, for example, ACT’s clients in shoe manufacturing, which include Timberland, New Balance, and Puma. Rapid prototyping using 3D printing — also known as additive manufacturing — can produce full-scale models of new designs, which can be easily modified numerous times at little cost, compared to making changes after manufacturing a large run.

Nick Gondek

Nick Gondek

“The technology has been around for some time, but flew under the radar,” said Gondek, whose parents, Greg and Cindi Gondek, purchased the company in 1999, when it focused solely on office-equipment supply. “Now it’s got everyone’s attention.”

They rebranded as ACT Group a couple of years ago to reflect a broadening in scope, including the company’s rise to prominence in the 3D-printing world.

“Five or six years ago, my father was traveling in Europe and was introduced to 3D printing,” Nick Gondek said. “After doing some research to better understand the clientele, he saw opportunity in this industry, on the service side of things.”

3D-printing technology allows users to create three-dimensional, solid objects using a computer-aided design (CAD) program. With a 3D printer, companies can now print a single part, or even complete product, in a matter of hours, when it used to take months. The technology can be used to create both precise, durable prototypes and final products for businesses of all sizes.

“We have a good customer base,” said Gondek, noting that ACT also services clients of 3D Systems, one of the nation’s premier 3D-printing companies, in the Northeast region.

The testimonials and success stories, as shared by Gondek with BusinessWest, are numerous. Daniel Copley, research and development manager at Parker Hannifin, which engineers products for industrial, hydraulic, and aerospace applications, said the company’s in-house 3D-printing capabilities reduced lead time for its prototypes as well as the number of iterations needed, and are saving some $250,000 a year in the cost of prototype parts.

Other clients have similar stories of efficiency and cost savings. Powermate, USA, a provider of power-supply-converting solutions, reports that prototype models of its products can be created in a half-day, with a 65% cost reduction over traditional production.

Meanwhile, John Reed, master prototype specialist at Black & Decker, noted that, “while a design may look good on the computer screen, there is really no substitute for actually holding something in your hand.”

Toby Ringdahl, computer aided design manager for Timberland, cited a dramatic reduction in prototype costs and turnaround time, resulting in more prototyping, better designs, and increased revenue, noting that 3D printing has succeeded in “compressing our design cycles, lowering our costs, and helping us produce better products for our customers.”

Expanding Scope

The 3D-printing process begins with a concept, which is digitally modeled using CAD software — in effect, creating a virtual blueprint of the object to be printed. The program then divides the object into digital cross-sections so the printer is able to build it layer by layer.

The manufacturer then chooses a material, which is sprayed, squeezed, or otherwise transferred onto a platform. The 3D printer makes passes over the platform, much like an inkjet printer, depositing very thin layers of material (each about one-tenth of a millimeter) atop each other to create the finished product.

ACT Group

ACT Group was formerly known as Advanced Copy Technologies, which focused solely on office equipment before expanding its scope, including its recent success with sales and service of 3D-printing equipment.

ACT first specialized in servicing this equipment for its client companies, but, not long after, saw opportunity in the sales of 3D printers, incorporating that end of the business as well.

Increasing numbers of manufacturers are turning to 3D printing, not only for prototyping, but for design, tooling, and delivery of parts and products. Cindi Gondek told Forbes that jewelers can use it to create new pieces, while museums can use it to reproduce rare items for study or display, just to name two applications that might not seem obvious at first.

3D printers can produce precision parts with impressive accuracy in a variety of materials, Nick Gondek said, including plastics, ceramics, wax, and metals.

Invisalign braces, manufactured by Align Technology, are a good example of a rapid-prototyping application most people have heard of, he went on. They are built using CT scanners and 3D printing techniques to fabricate a product that’s different for each user — to the tune of 17 million sets per year.

“Invisalign has a very unique production capacity. They have mastered customized production; every person’s braces are specific to that patient. They 3D print all the models and basically build a retainer over the custom-made molds,” he noted. Without the rapid prototyping allowed by 3D-printing technology, this process — and product — would be much more expensive and labor-intensive.

In fact, the broad field of medicine provides fertile soil for 3D printing, Gondek said, starting with the education and training of future doctors and other medical professionals.

“We have technologies that mimic the properties of human bone for pre-surgical practice, with students cutting bones, drilling bones … and we now have technology to mimic tissue as well, so we can cover them,” he explained.

The technology is also used for designing patient-specific braces and implants to mend broken bones and aid in surgery, Gondek added. “In the news, there’s a lot of talk about printing human tissue. No machine can print organs today, but that’s something that might become a possibility in five or 10 years.”

One ACT client is Maimonides Bone and Joint Center, which produces a 3D color bone model quickly and accurately from a CT scan. This 50% scale model helps doctors discuss medical issues with patients and assists with surgery practice sessions. “I found the 3D model invaluable in patient education, surgical planning, and physician training,” said the company’s Dr. Howard Goodman.

Meanwhile, Battelle Center for Mathematical Medicine developed a full-color 3D model of the F protein, which aided in the development of new perspectives on how respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) works, which promises to aid in vaccine research. “Even with prior access to stereo-3D monitors and professional graphics cards, nothing compares to a full-color, physical 3D model,” said Dr. William Ray, principal investigator and faculty member.

From the Ground Up

Additive manufacturing is also revolutionizing the architecture, engineering, and construction world, Gondek said, producing scale models of buildings faster and at lower cost than before, and allowing designers to make earlier decisions and reduce time to market.

Andrew Chary of Andrew Chary Architect PLLC, another ACT Group client, characterizes 3D printing as a natural outgrowth of building information modeling (BIM), which generates digital representations of buildings in the design phase. “BIM doesn’t reach its full persuasive potential on a computer screen,” he said. “The model comes to life when you hold a 3D print in your hands.”

The dominant material for prototyping is a liquid plastic that turns into a solid when exposed to UV light, Gondek explained. A ceramic material is typically used to mimic human bone, and any number of metals may be used when manufacturing industrial parts.

The move into 3D printing required some major shifts at ACT. The equipment involved in that realm is so different from the traditional office products the company sells that a dedicated team was established for 3D sales, service, and support. They were sent to MIT for professional education in the latest processes. “We couldn’t have their traditional 2D salespeople sell this equipment,” he explained. “The applications are too diverse.”

Thus, ACT Group continues to keep up with the latest 3D printing technology — a rapidly expanding field.

“We do our homework to a high extent so the customer fully understands the capacities as well as the limitations. We can’t be everything to everyone,” Gondek said. “But this is pushing the boundaries of what is possible.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — In today’s society, dogs enhance the lives of millions of people in countless ways, but they are also some of our oldest friends. Ancient clues like cave paintings and burials reveal that dogs and people have lived together for thousands of years. But why have humans formed such close relationships with dogs, and not cows or chickens?

“Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs” is the largest and most comprehensive traveling exhibition ever created on the history, biology, and evolution of dogs. The exhibit, on view at the Springfield Science Museum from Jan. 30 through May 12, attempts to sniff out the facts on dogs and explore what makes the human/dog relationship so unique. It uses the familiarity and love of these four-legged friends to explore science and biological concepts.

The exhibit has four themed sections including multi-media displays, artifacts, photo murals, and dioramas of taxidermied wild canines and sculpted modern dog breeds. Additionally, interactive, hands-on components demonstrate key exhibit concepts. For example, visitors can enter a ‘howling area’ and guess what dogs are saying, test their nose against a dog’s great sense of smell, and examine fossil and genetic evidence of how modern-day dogs are descended from wolves.

The Museums have planned a variety of programs in conjunction with the exhibit, starting with an opening celebration on Saturday, Jan. 30 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The day’s events will include a performance by magician Greg McAdams and his dog Axel, animal demonstrations by Rae Griffiths of Teaching Creatures, and themed art and science activities. All these events are free with museum admission, but there is a $5 special-exhibit fee for visitors ages 3 and up to view “Wolf to Woof.”

In addition, the weekly Museums à la Carte lecture on Thursday, March 17 will feature a talk by Eliot Rusman, president and CEO of Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation. Tickets for this lecture are $4 for the general public and $2 for members.

“Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs” is sponsored by United Bank. MassMutual is the 2015-16 Premier Sponsor of the Springfield Museums.