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DBA Certificates Departments

The following business certificates and trade names were issued or renewed during the month of August 2017.

AMHERST

Catch My Thrift
11 East Pleasant St.
Robert Chesnut

Red Door Salon
55 South Pleasant St.
Kirsten Barnes

Sachem Capital
264 Harkness Road
Sachem Capital Corp.

SweetSpotWake.com
747 South East St.
Jed Rovhana

CHICOPEE

Curb Appeal Landscaping
48 Borys Circle
Matthew Galaska, Kimberlee Galaska, Raymond Galaska

Jasper and Nick
52 Ellsbree St.
Debra Lucia

Riera Construction
30 Nassau St.
Lazaro Riera

EASTHAMPTON

DWE Landscaping
521 East St.
Donald Eggleston, Veronica Frantz

Pono Mai Therapeutic Massage
11 Duda Dr.
Melissa Pandina

EAST LONGMEADOW

Carlson Roofing Co.
176 Porter Road
Robert Carlson

National Camping Travelers
9 Somerset St.
David Fant

Martin Roofing
85 Lee St.
Robert Martin

Redstone Marketing & Design
12 Colony Dr.
Joseph Rosa

HOLYOKE

Button It
540 County Road
Terry Paquin

Burnt Offering Design
22 Linden St.
Mark Chilton

Fruity Bubble
50 Holyoke St.
Kelvin Zheng

The Kick It Club
426 Maple St.
Yaritza Rivera

King Mart
494 Westfield Road
Sanjay Patel, Krishnakant Swadia

Spirit Halloween Superstores, LLC
50 Holyoke St.
Spirit Halloween Superstores, LLC

LUDLOW

Dave’s Soda and Pet Food City
433 Center St.
Dave’s Retail Trust

John C. Marcus Contractors
123 Shawnigan Dr.
John Marcus

Morais Landscaping
222 Cady St.
Danny Morais

Silver Brook Farms
67 Jackie Dr.
Thomas Cislak

A Touch of Heaven at Spa West
326 West Ave.
Tanya Martinez

NORTHAMPTON

Astute Tutoring and Education Services
9½ Market St.
Christian Covert, Aaron Covert

Computer First Aid
209 Main St., Apt. 2A
Cian Dowling

Faith Sullivan, M.Div.
71 King St.
Faith Sullivan

Highview of Northampton
222 River Road
Robert Petroff

Local Forager Brokerage
245 Main St., Unit 207
Pamela Ferrechio

Mill River Music and Guitars
16 Armory St.
Jon Aronstein

Mineral Hills Winery
592 Sylvester Road
Susan Godard

Northampton Psychotherapy
8 Crafts Ave.
Nicholas Boutros

PALMER

Joshua M. Gibbs Electrician
3041 South Main St.
Joshua Gibbs

Noble Stoneworks
124 St. John St.
Jonathan Bechard

SOUTHWICK

Lakewood Village, LLC
160 Point Grove Road
Mary Thayer

Sunny’s Convenience
801 College Highway
Synil Patel

SPRINGFIELD

A 2 Z Towing and Roadside Assistance
110 Old Lane Road
Branden Stanek

Andre’s Fitness Training
151 Merrimac Ave.
Andre Webley

Angie’s Fashion
34 Maryland St.
Luna Ruben

Brian’s Carpet and Upholstery
154 Brittany Road
Brian Stasiak

BTC Home Improvement
224 Pearl St.
Glenn LaBier

Calvin Auto Repairing
170 Massachusetts Ave.
Calvin Fearing

Catering by Meital
979 Dickinson St.
Meital Aloush

Dollar General Store #190
1070 St. James Ave.
DG Retail, LLC

Dollar General Store #191
786 Boston Road
DG Retail, LLC

Eco Friendly Cleaners
436 Boston Road
Arksone Anachack

Elite Security Service
22 Winnipeg St.
Troy Gebo

Elorac & Enaid
51A Trafton Road
Anthony Frogameni

EWB Lawncare & Snow Removal
30 Gatewood Road
Ernest Buffaloe

The Flower Box
596 Carew St.
Brian Grisel

J & J Barbershop
165½ White St.
Javier Nunez

Jad Mourad
66 Newton Road
Jad Mourad

Juvrena, LLC
139 Switzer Ave.
Yecenia Guzman

Marcel Smith
31 Westford Ave.
Marcel Smith

Masters Beauty Salon
24 Island Pond Road
Janet Disco

Miya’s Mixes
39 Kirk Dr.
Glynis Phillips

My House of Temptations
57 Haskin St.
Tamika McKenzie

Pacos Detailing
17 Arthur Picard Circle
Francisco Cancinos

Polish Me Pretty
34½ Oak St.
Eddie Santiago

Pressure Washing USA
1242 Main St.
Service Jobs Inc.

Property Maintenance
122 Temby St.
Daniel Rivera

Sara, LLC
603 Wilbraham Road
Zahoor Haq

Shades of Jade
6 Berkshire St.
Fanta Simmons

Suzana Decoration
103 Rhinebeck Ave.
Maria Machado

Triptic Star
298 Allen Park Road
Michelle Barbaby

Velopez Cleaning Services
23 Wareham St.
Jose Velez

Vibra Hospital of Western Massachusetts
400 State St.
Vibra Hospital of Western Massachusetts

WARE

Century 21
109 West St.
James D’Amico

Maple Leaf Mowing and Landscaping
11 Smith Ave.
Andrew Egan

WEST SPRINGFIELD

Auntie Cathie’s Kitchen
217 Elm St.
Catherine Albrecht

Basic Packaging Supply
136 Wayside Ave.
James Pollard

Fathers & Sons Volvo Cars
989 Memorial Ave.
Damon Cartelli

Kia M. Brokos, L.M.T.
425 Union St.
Kia Brokos

Noel’s Damce & Gymnastics
87 Norman St.
Louise Noel

Riverdale Dental
1073 Riverdale St.
Vijay Gaddam

Royalty
51 Park Ave.
Khalis Kasimov

Wendy’s
644 Riverdale St.
Parikh Amish

Wiggles & Giggles Day Care
112 Orchardview St.
Kristen Montville

WILBRAHAM

Callahan’s Camp for Canines, LLC
2 River Road
Meryl Callahan

Frank’s Lawn Care
14 Iroquois Lane
Frank Kochanowski

Wilbraham Nail Spa
2133 Boston Road, Unit 4
Anderson Tai

Daily News

EASTHAMPTON — Hogan Technology, a provider of unified communications, announced that the company is certified to provide cybersecurity solutions to SMBs (small to mid-sized businesses) to protect them from the barrage of cyberattacks that occur every day.

Cybercrimes are a serious threat, and most businesses cannot afford to become the victim of malware, ransomware, phishing, password attacks, denial-of-service attacks, or malvertising of any sort for a prolonged period of time, said Sean Hogan, president of Hogan Technology. Recent advancements in preventive technology have helped SMBs safeguard themselves from unnecessary attacks, network vulnerabilities, and company downtime that can often result from such disruptions.

Hogan Technology invests heavily in its staff of IT professionals to ensure that everyone is well-trained, certified, and fully equipped to protect customers from cyberattacks. “It’s incredibly important to continually invest in our people,” Hogan said. “When we invest in our technicians’ technical abilities, we are investing in our customers’ safety. This is why we’re constantly watching the technological horizon and educating our team so that, when our customers need help, they are working with a world-class expert, not just some person who dabbles in IT.”

Most business owners are more focused on conducting revenue-generating activities than assessing potential IT vulnerabilities, Hogan added. This is why many SMBs have opted to outsource their IT to an external managed IT services provider; they don’t have the time, expertise, or inclination to become an expert in these facets of business. By partnering with a trusted IT advisor, whose sole mission is to remain one step ahead of hackers, SMBs can remain focused on their top priorities and continue to grow their organizations to new heights.

“The security landscape is constantly changing in order to stay up with the latest global attacks,” Hogan said. “Since education, research, and development has been a cornerstone of Hogan Technology, the company is able to stay a step ahead and provide the right guidance to customers to properly secure their networks now and into the future.”

Construction Sections

In the Pipeline

Company principals Laurie and John Raymaakers

Company principals Laurie and John Raymaakers

John and Laurie Raymaakers had a decision to make after the early-’90s recession torpedoed their property-management business — try to rebuild that enterprise, or go in a different direction. They chose, of all things, asphalt seal-coating, but that was only the beginning. Over the years, their company grew, added equipment and services, and is now a heavy civil-engineering firm and general contractor boasting 26 employees, with an intriguing side business in materials recycling — a true, under-the-radar success story in the local construction world.

John and Laurie Raymaakers knew when to shift gears, even if they didn’t always know how.

As the 1990s dawned, the couple ran a successful property-management operation, with 14 employees and some 900 units in seven apartment complexes.

But, due to the recession that struck the nation’s economy at the turn of the decade, the owners the couple worked for started bleeding properties at a startling rate. “We lost 73% of our business within six months,” Laurie told BusinessWest.

With prospects bleak — Laurie went to work at a local police department and a Boys & Girls Club to help make ends meet — the pair looked for another opportunity to strike out on their own, and they found one in seal-coating asphalt driveways and parking lots.

“When we started the seal-coating business, our kids were young, and we would sit around the table and fold brochures into trifolds, then drive around in the station wagon, putting them in newspaper boxes. That’s why we say the kids have been in this business since they were little — it was cheap labor.”

Today, however, ‘this business’ has moved far away from its roots fixing driveway cracks. J.L. Raymaakers & Sons — the couple’s two boys, John Jr. and Joshua, grew up to become partners in the company — is a general contractor and heavy civil-engineering firm employing 26 people and maintaining a fleet of 17 trucks.

The progression between the two points is a lesson in identifying opportunities and working hard to grab them, with the goal of growing a modest, Westfield-based family business into a multi-faceted operation.

Exhibit A is the seal-coating idea itself, one John came up with while researching what types of businesses he might be suited for, and which of those weren’t suffering from an overcrowded market.

This culvert installation in Blandford

This culvert installation in Blandford is an example of J.L. Raymaakers & Sons’ civil-engineering work.

“I saw a need for it; there weren’t many people at the time doing it,” he explained. “It was mostly crack filling, and it wasn’t too expensive to get into. But it started mushrooming; we were doing asphalt work, but then doing little paving jobs.”

For instance, some parking lots couldn’t be seal-coated until a broken catch basin was fixed. So they learned how to fix catch basins, which became a lucrative part of the business. Then they added small excavating projects to their roster.

‘We can do that’ became the couple’s motto, Laurie said. “If someone needed work done, we’d say, ‘we can do that’; then we’d look it up on the computer or ask somebody.”

From a couple of employees and one dumptruck, J.L. Raymaakers & Sons expanded further, getting into some pipe work, which led to the company’s most significant niche to date, heavy civil engineering.

“We’ve always been a general contractor, even from the property-management days, when we’d do carpentry and electrical,” John said, but the firm would, indeed, find its most profitable growth from the ground — or beneath it, actually — up.

Big Digs

Today, John told BusinessWest, the firm regularly takes on $2 million to $3 million jobs, with work ranging from storm-basin cleaning and repair to storm-drain installation and repair; from water and sewer-line installation to concrete work and retaining walls — a step up, certainly, from seal-coating driveways.

Recently, these jobs include a pump station handling sewage for three Southwick schools, a fuel-containment center at Bradley International Airport that involved moving million-gallon tanks, a new water-distribution line for the Thorndike section of Palmer, and, on the general-contracting side, a new security building at Savage Arms, a company for which Raymaakers has completed several projects.

We’re trying to build in as much diversity as we can. We’re trying to stay well-rounded, so that, if the city and state work slows down, the private sector might pick up, and vice versa. The newest thing for us is buildouts on commercial property, additions and that type of thing.”

“We’re trying to build in as much diversity as we can,” he said. “We’re trying to stay well-rounded, so that, if the city and state work slows down, the private sector might pick up, and vice versa. The newest thing for us is buildouts on commercial property, additions and that type of thing.”

That’s being accomplished partly through a recent foray into a steel-building division that promises to keep crews busy in the colder months, when civil-engineering projects tend to shut down. In many instances, Raymaakers is working at the subcontracting level, with an eye on positioning itself as the lead contractor — controlling projects and hiring subcontractors — on an increasing number of jobs.

“The main focus of our business has been this heavy civil construction, but it’s seasonal,” Laurie said. “We’re trying to find ways to expand our season year-round. We’re not just outdoor people.”

That said, the flow of work on the civil-engineering side is strong, even though the firm is typically competing with 15 others to, say, install a water line.

“What we’re not seeing,” Laurie said, “is qualified or experienced people to hire to grow with us. The need for skilled tradespeople is not going away, and it’s not just us — everyone we talk to within the industry says the same thing. And it’s a field where you can make a very good wage.”

Still, the company has hired at a consistent pace over the years, and expansion has taken several shapes recently, from new equipment purchases to the hiring of a second project manager. Meanwhile, John Jr., whose main role is project manager and estimator, and Joshua, a site supervisor, are slowly transitioning into greater leadership roles with the intention of someday running the company on their own.

“They’ve grown with us and learned with us, and they excel in their areas,” Laurie said. “John Jr. is involved in the steel buildings, and Joshua takes the biggest, hardest jobs and is always encouraging us to look at purchasing some properties and renovating them and putting them up for resale. They have their own ideas within the company.”

General-contracting work, like this warehouse

General-contracting work, like this warehouse, helps the firm stay diverse and busy throughout the year.

But the family didn’t stop there. Through their civil engineering and construction work, J.L. Raymaakers & Sons digs up a lot of dirt. So instead of piling it up and letting it go to waste on their 10-acre property, they began cleaning it and separating usable product to sell. That side company, called ROAR (Raymaakers Onsite Aggregate Recycling), employs four of the Raymaakers’ total team of 26.

“We were seeing a need for people wanting loam or trap rock, so we set up an area where smaller construction companies, landscapers, and homeowners can come and buy it,” John said. “We’ve grown that to where we’re selling bark mulch, colored rock, processed gravel, and all kinds of trap rock.”

ROAR simply makes sense, from both a financial and environmental perspective, Laurie added. “We’d rather utilize the land we have and make money off it, while recycling these products from our own jobs.”

Growing Together

Co-owner of a certified women-owned business enterprise (WBE), Laurie is gratified that perceptions about women in construction have come a long way.

She recalls, early in the seal-coating days, that John burned himself badly when a block filled with crack filler splashed him, and for four months, it was just Laurie and her sister-in-law working the driveways and parking lots. After one job, the property owner wouldn’t even answer the door to pay them, having trouble accepting the fact that women were doing the work.

Today, that’s just a humorous story in the history of a true regional success story. John is the first to admit that maintaining a strong family business is a tough road, but repeatedly praised the company’s dedicated crews and long-time employees for their role in growing the firm.

“We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve worked hard to get here,” Laurie added. “It’s a constant in your life. There’s been some sacrifice at times, but I’m really proud of what we’ve done.”

John noted that not only their sons have grown up with the company, but so have many of their teenage friends, who now work there.

“All these friends of our kids, they’ve been here 10, 15 years. We don’t tend to lose people,” he said.

That’s a plus for this family that just keeps digging for more opportunities — literally and figuratively.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Luxury Living Sections

Taking the Plunge

A poolside patio built by RJM Landscaping.

A poolside patio built by RJM Landscaping.

When inground pools were at the height of their popularity in the ’70s and ’80s, most were classic rectangles, outfitted with a diving board and maybe a twisting slide, ringed with a four-foot-wide patio and a fence. Today, inground pools aren’t as common, but a growing contingent of customers are going beyond the rectangle and using odd shapes, elaborate hardscapes and waterfalls, and other amenities to turn their backyard into something resembling a resort. These poolscapes aren’t cheap, but the quality-of-life upgrade, designers say, make the cost worthwhile.

When does a vacation not feel like a vacation?

Actually, much of the time, Rick Miller said.

“Typically, when you go away, it’s really not like a vacation — you get home, and you’re beat,” he noted. “Many people feel it’s a lot more relaxing to stay around the house and have their own privacy and not have to mingle with everyone else who’s on vacation.”

Besides, he added, “travel is so expensive these days, and some people fear it a little bit on a security level — they feel they’re more secure staying around their home. So, instead of investing in a trip and going away, they put that money in their backyard.”

And sometimes, it’s a lot of money.

Miller, president of RJM Landscaping Inc. in Westfield, is one of a handful of area landscape designers who installs high-end poolscapes — not just inground pools, but the hardscapes, water features, and other elements around them that create the feel of a resort right in the customer’s backyard.

“The price range is all over the spectrum,” he said. “It can be a simple, rectangular pool, with a four-foot-wide swath of pavement, what they used to do in the old days,” he told BusinessWest, “but for many people, it’s gotten a lot bigger. For people who want to spend more time in the backyard, it’s worthwhile to make that kind of investment, and stay at home rather than going somewhere else.”

Ted Hebert, owner of Teddy Bear Pools & Spas, said a recent emphasis on elaborate poolscapes has led to a downturn in the sale of inground pools themselves, which have long been the domain of the middle class, a group that Hebert feels is shrinking in America.

Those who do purchase inground pools, by and large, don’t want a basic 18-by-36-foot rectangle with a diving board, he noted; they’re looking for a waterfall, LED lighting, ornamental fencing, and colored, stamped concrete or rock formations. “Now that $25,000 pool may be more like $45,000 or $50,000, and when you add landscaping and other things, it can get expensive.”

Brian Campedelli says many customers want natural-looking water features around their pools.

Brian Campedelli says many customers want natural-looking water features around their pools.

Often, that means well into the six figures, said Brian Campedelli, president of Pioneer Landscapes Inc. in Easthampton. The higher-end projects — full-yard transformations that center around a resort-like poolscape — may run between $80,000 and $150,000, and Campedelli may tackle only a couple of those a year, but there are wide variations in pricing depending on what features a customer needs to have.

“We design what you want; there are custom pool houses with full running water, beautiful kitchens, outdoor showers — you can spend a quarter-million on your backyard if you want to fully transform it,” he explained. “Most people don’t know what they want; they just know they want to beautify their backyard around their inground pool. They might have some ideas, and it becomes clearer when we show them the design process and some of our ideas and materials we use.”

Those might include elements of falling water, fire, and raised plant beds, as well as pergolas, outdoor kitchens, and even, in some cases, a small extension off the house for a bar, a flat-screen TV, and lights on dimmers.

In other words, many clients don’t have a specific vision for how their poolscape will fit into their yard — or they just imagine that basic rectangle, a ring of concrete, and fence — but Campedelli, and landscape designers like him, can help them develop a vision that encompasses the entire yard, turning it, essentially, into a permanent vacation space.

“Once we’re done, they understand the concept; they see the way it flows,” he said. “We want to create an outdoor room that uses the entire space.”

Young and Old

Some customers for high-end pools are families with young children, Campedelli noted, but more are middle-aged professionals who have navigated past a mortgage and college payments for their grown children, and are looking to invest more significantly in their homes and yards.

“What they can get in a pool depends on a lot of things, but we try to work within their budget and do the best we can with what they have,” he said. “We try to give them the most we can from their landscaping dollar. It’s my passion, so I’ll usually throw a lot of things in. It’s not always the best business practice, but I’d rather give them then ultimate experience and maximize the potential of their backyard than walk away feeling like they missed out.”

Some elements, like artistic landscape lighting, aren’t on a customer’s radar until Campedelli brings up the options, and demonstrates how well-placed lights can create a soft, meditative glow. “It can change the entire feel of the backyard, as opposed to having a powerful light off the house. I’ll nudge them toward something like that, and they appreciate it.”

Such high-end poolscapes do price a wide range of people out of the market, Hebert said, and the retail pool industry has seen a decline in basic, no-frills inground pools. “Going back to the ’70s, ’80s, early ’90s, there’s no comparison. In the mid- to late ’80s, there was a lot of easy money around, and anyone could get a mortgage. You’d buy a house for $100,000, and in five years, it was worth $150,000 to $200,000.”

This Pioneer Landscapes project reflects another popular feature, the poolside bar.

This Pioneer Landscapes project reflects another popular feature, the poolside bar.

People would think nothing, he said, of spending that equity on an inground pool. In the years following the housing-market crash, however, that kind of equity is much tougher to come by, and homeowners are just as likely to find themselves upside-down on their mortgage. “That has taken money away from people, taken away their purchasing power.”

At the same time, he said, kids don’t play in their own yards as much as they used to; if they’re not tied up in organized sports, camps, and otherwise heavily structured summers, they’re indoors, communicating with virtual friends — and often comfortably air-conditioned.

People would think nothing, he said, of spending that equity on an inground pool. In the years following the housing-market crash, however, that kind of equity is much tougher to come by, and homeowners are just as likely to find themselves upside-down on their mortgage. “That has taken money away from people, taken away their purchasing power.”

“The people who are in a position to afford an inground pool may have central air,” he noted. “If you think back to the ’60s and ’70s, that wasn’t the case; it was hot, and your kids played outside and came in when the streetlights came on.” It’s a different world today, he added, one that values comfort and hypersecurity over free play.

Even families who might enjoy an inground pool but think they can’t afford it may simply be prioritizing their spending in a way that squeezes a pool out of the equation, Hebert explained.

A week-long vacation, for example, may cost $5,000 to $6,000, money that would easily cover a year’s worth of payments on a 10-year loan for a $50,000 poolscape that can be enjoyed every day, from May to September. Meanwhile, families spend hundreds of dollars each month on TV services, smartphones, and Internet — line items that could also easily be reduced and earmarked for an investment in the backyard, where a family can enjoy cooking out, hosting parties, and just relaxing in the water.

Lifestyle Adjustment

Instead, people who buy inground pools today tend to want more than the basics, said Miller, noting that customers’ average age tends to be in the 40s and up. But for landscape designers who can handle these jobs, they pose uniquely creative opportunities.

“It’s definitely a niche; I don’t think this is something that your basic landscape contractor can do,” he said. “The trend right now is very unique shapes, and water jets and waterfalls are popular items. As far as pavers go, the biggest trend is paver slabs, which are larger pieces of paving stones, with fewer joints to be seen by the customer. With each of these things, there’s a higher cost.”

But it’s worth it, he added, for people who want to turn their backyards into a true quality-of-life enhancer.

“We’re trying to get the whole mixture of elements out there — not just a pool and a patio, but maybe a fireplace, water features, and outdoor kitchens as well. When people have big get-togethers, it’s not just swimming; it’s cooking out and serving food.”

People with the means to spend plenty of money on travel — CEOs and business owners, for example — will still do that, Campedelli said, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to create a vacation-like environment at home, too.

“These are people with stressful jobs, and there’s no better feeling than to kick off the suit and tie, put on a bathing suit and flip-flops, go out back, and feel like you’re in the Bahamas,” he said. “Once people see how they can use their backyard, they want something like this.”


Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Creative Economy Sections

The Show Must Go On

Brian Hale

Brian Hale hopes an ambitious fund-raising plan will transform the Bing Arts Center into a widely known destination.

Folks who grew up in Springfield’s Forest Park area or near the X commercial district have fond memories of attending movies at the Bing Theater — at least, until it was shuttered in 1999 for non-payment of taxes. But a 13-year (and counting) effort to revitalize the site into a multi-purpose arts center has the place buzzing again, with a regular schedule of arts events. Now comes the bigger challenge — renovating the Bing’s main theater and turning it into a regional destination.

Brian Hale remembers growing up near Springfield’s historic X district and watching movies on Saturdays at the Bing Theater. Those excursions, he understands now, were helping to lay the foundation for a lifetime of appreciating the arts — not just film, but art in all forms.

“A lot of people today don’t realize the impact going to the movies had,” he told BusinessWest. “People today take them for granted; you can watch a movie on your phone or your computer. But back then, going to the movies on a Saturday — that was excitement.”

Hale, owner of Design WorkShop Inc. in Springfield and president of X Main Street Corp. (XMSC), the nonprofit that owns the Bing, spends a lot more time there these days than he did as a kid, not just appreciating the arts, but trying to raise their profile and make the facility the community centerpiece it once was.

It hasn’t been an easy road, and there’s still a long way to go, but there is once again a palpable buzz about what is now known as the Bing Arts Center.

“It’s very intimate, very sociable; it’s a listening room, not a bar,” he said of the unassuming structure on Sumner Avenue, which is slowly being renovated while hosting music and educational events in its small lobby, flanked by two small art galleries. “It’s a welcoming space where people can feel comfortable coming and meeting friends. This is about making the community a better place, and a good way to do that is through the arts.”

I get frustrated with the state of the world and the community as much as anyone. But I feel like nothing brings people together like the arts, and having a community space that attracts a wide variety of people from the city who might not otherwise run into each other.”

Since reopening for cultural and community events in 2010, the Bing has quietly built a busy schedule of performances, all of which take place in the building’s front lobby because the former theater space is in need of a serious remodel. But Hale’s vision, and that of his fellow board members and area arts supporters, is to see the entire venue open once again, with multiple spaces housing gatherings both large and small, indoors and outdoors, perhaps even on the roof — all of it, he told BusinessWest, aimed at bringing people together over shared passions during a time when Americans increasingly feel polarized by current events.

“I get frustrated with the state of the world and the community as much as anyone,” he added, “but I feel like nothing brings people together like the arts, and having a community space that attracts a wide variety of people from the city who might not otherwise run into each other.”

The Bing has achieved part of that goal already. The rest will take a lot more work — and money. But the end result, Hale said, will be one more attraction to further stamp Springfield as a city clearly on the rise.

Reel Life

The building wasn’t always a theater, but originally housed Kossaboom’s Service Station through the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s. When it closed, the pumps were removed, the front of the building reconfigured, and an auditorium was built in the rear.

The Bing Theatre, named for then-superstar Bing Crosby, opened in 1950 with a showing of Samson and Delilah. For the next half-century, the movies kept coming, concluding that era with Gus Van Sant’s shot-by-shot remake of Psycho. That was in 1999, when the city of Springfield took the property for non-payment of taxes, and all activity ceased on the property.

the Bing hosts myriad concerts, lectures, films, and other activities in its lobby.

With the main theater currently unusable, the Bing hosts myriad concerts, lectures, films, and other activities in its lobby.

But before long, a group of arts advocates and business people held a series of meetings and suggested the theater should be used as an arts center.

“The city put out an RFP for some type of community arts use, and our organization, the X Main Street Corp., made up of local business people, got involved,” Hale said. “These Main Street corporations are all over the country, and are generally created to try to revitalize urban commercial districts like the X.”

The organization was formed in 1995 to help revitalize the Forest Park neighborhood, the X commercial district, and the Sumner Avenue corridor, with efforts like starting the Forest Park Farmers’ Market, operating a food-security program, and securing significant streetscape improvements for the area, including new streetlights, benches, planters, and other touches to make the neighborhood more attractive. The XMSC also managed a façade-improvement program and developed and presented a series of technical-assistance seminars for local businesses.

The Bing posed a more significant challenge — but a great opportunity as well.

“When I saw this space was available, I said to the board, ‘this would make a great arts center. We could stimulate development, get people here at night; it’ll be good for local restaurants.’”

In 2002, the board of directors decided to adopt the strategy of arts accessibility to strengthen the community culturally and economically. XMSC then became the preferred developer for the former Bing Theater and, in December 2004, finally convinced the city to sell the property to the nonprofit.

Plans were formulated to convert the storefronts to gallery space, bring everything up to code, and use the former lobby as a multi-purpose space. The marquee and façade were also renovated. After six years of planning, fund-raising, and work, the Bing Arts Center opened in June 2010, and now presents regular cultural and educational programming — everything from visual arts and film screenings to musical performances and art classes — in addition to hosting meetings for other community groups, serving as a neighborhood hub.

“We’ve made an impact. We wanted it to be an arts center and offer as much diverse, eclectic content as we could,” Hale said, rattling off some of the performers who had been through in only the past few weeks, ranging from local rock bands to chamber ensembles to a folksinger from Sweden. Meanwhile, local artists are invited to display their work in rotating exhibits in the storefront galleries that flank the lobby.

“We also have a pop-up gallery where anyone can put their art on the wall for an evening and sell it,” he added. “We have refreshments and music; it’s a fun thing. People who want to see their work in a public space can come in and do it.”

The center also promotes connections between artists and the public instead of building walls between them, he added.

“A filmmaker makes a movie and shows it here, and people enjoy talking to them — ‘how did you do this?’ ‘How did you shoot this scene?’ That’s a good way to experience the arts.

“Springfield does big arts pretty well,” he went on. “We have Symphony Hall, CityStage, the MassMutual Center, and Theodores’ is a great little club; there’s a lot of good things to do. But there isn’t really anything else like the Bing in the area.”

Coming Attractions

To reach Hale’s goal of restoring the large theater, with the goal of featuring national-release independent and art films, preparations for phase 2 are underway. The theater will initially be configured for 300 to 350 seats, including a mezzanine, which it did not have before. The original theater held more than 900 seats, but the plan, as designed by local architect Stephen Jablonski, will accommodate two separate spaces, the main room for larger audiences and a smaller, adjoining space for smaller events.

Phase 1 of the Bing’s revitalization

Phase 1 of the Bing’s revitalization saw its façade, lobby, and gallery space renovated, while phase 2 aims to bring back its large theater.

Achieving all that will take about $1 million in fund-raising, but Hale also envisions creating a roof space for outdoor events, which could also be rented out for parties and receptions. “It would be the coolest arts venue in the valley if we had that,” he said, but admitted that addition could push the price tag close to $4 million.

Support for the main theater restoration has come from unexpected places, including a woman Hale went to school with in Springfield; she lives in Arizona now, but the two have kept in contact on Facebook, and she has donated periodically to the Bing’s revitalization. Recently, she and her husband reached out with a request to purchase naming rights to a program, and after a $25,000 donation, her parents have been memorialized with the Richard and Ethel Hanley Arts Education Program.

Understanding that the valley is full of companies and individuals with the resources to make large gifts, Hale hopes it won’t be the last such naming opportunity. It’s an investment worth making, he added, noting that people talk about the rise of Springfield’s downtown, but only a few thousand people actually live there, while some 26,000 call the X and Forest Park area their home.

“Younger people are coming back to cities; they don’t want to live out in the suburbs, and this is definitely a crucial piece,” he said of attracting that new, younger generation of city dwellers.

“The arts can’t change a place by itself, but they are vital, no doubt,” he added. “A city has to think of itself as a business. You need residents moving into your city. There aren’t enough places for musicians to play, for artists to exhibit, places for arts education that bring artists and the community together, where they can actually interact. But it’s happening here.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

HOLYOKE — The secret of successful businesses is that they are constantly reassessing their business needs. While some aspects of a business, like employee performance or the need for new equipment, are reevaluated frequently, one aspect of a business — its banking — can often be overlooked.

“Business owners should consider a financial physical. Business needs change from year to year, and business-banking needs may have also changed as well,” said Dave Thibault, vice president, Cash Management at PeoplesBank. “Similar to a real physical, it’s a quick, face-to-face chat. It allows my customers to catch me up on their business and any changes, then I can recommend any updates that will save them money or make their processes more efficient. Most importantly, I see them walk out of the office with peace of mind knowing there’s a plan in place and it’s been vetted with someone they trust.”

The checkup is a brief series of questions focusing on three key areas:

1. Make your Business Checking Work for You. Are you keeping higher or lower balances than in previous years? Are you making more transactions? If so, may you benefit from cash-management solutions or another account type? “The answers to these questions will help determine the right business-banking solutions for you,” said Cynthia Wszolek, Cash Management Officer at PeoplesBank. “They also will help you know which online tools would work best for your business.”

2. Eliminate as Many Fraud Risks as You Can. Is your anti-virus and security software robust and up-to-date? Is your staff educated on best business practices to safeguard against actions that can compromise workstations and the network? When it comes to your business banking, are you aware of your current level of fraud protections? “Some business owners forget that banking options come with varying levels of fraud protection,” Thibault said. “There are a lot of options, and some of them can reduce the risk and liability that could fall on the business owner. Things like alerts to catch suspicious activity, and, if something does get flagged, your bank can work directly with you to rectify the issue before it becomes a larger problem.”

3. Increase Banking Efficiency. Do you pay your employees by check? Do you go to the bank to make your deposits? Does reconciling your account take time? “If you answered yes to any of these questions, new cash-management solutions may make your banking processes more efficient,” Wszolek said. “These new solutions let you deposit your checks right from your office and automatically updates your accounts-payable system. Your process becomes more efficient — saving you time, giving you faster access to your cash, and increasing your cash flow.”

“Banking technologies continue to become more innovative,” she concluded. “An annual financial physical will help ensure that your business-banking processes are efficient, effective, and safe from fraud.”

Cover Story

The ‘Pulse’ of MGM Springfield

Alex Dixon

Alex Dixon

Alex Dixon, a self-described third-generation casino worker, has assumed the duties of general manager of the $950 million MGM Springfield resort casino complex. This is a large job with a broad set of responsibilities that he boils down to creating a winning culture. Roughly 15 months out from the grand opening, his work is focused mainly on assembling a team — and especially the corps of senior leaders — and essentially bringing this facility to life.

When Alex Dixon was assistant general manager at the Horseshoe Baltimore Casino, he went to great lengths to fully understand all aspects of virtually every job at the sprawling complex and what it was like to perform such duties.

In fact, he performed them himself.

“I put on a valet’s uniform and parked cars — that’s the best way to learn valet,” he told BusinessWest. “I put on an environmental-services uniform and learned how to clean toilets. I put on the uniform of many of the positions, if not all the positions, in the facility to spend three or four hours with that group to really understand how I, as a leader, can impact the day-to-day lives of my front-line team members.”

And he plans to do the same in his new role, as general manager of MGM Springfield, both before that $950 million facility opens its doors in the fall of 2018, and after. So visitors should keep their eyes peeled, because they might just spot him dealing them in at blackjack, greeting them at the front door, or parking their car.

That happened quite often in Baltimore, actually.

“It’s amazing the reaction you’ll get from customers when they see you on the floor in a security uniform welcoming guests alongside those team members,” said Dixon, 36, who described himself as a third-generation casino worker (more on that later). “But that’s how you fully understand the challenges with each job; in many cases there are very small things we can do to make things easier, and we need to do those things.”

This is the textbook definition of a servant leader, which is the phrase Dixon summoned when asked to describe his management style and what he will bring to Springfield’s South End.

“There’s not a job in our facility that I would not do myself,” he said. “And we really need to understand the day-to-day life of our employees, because that’s who our customers interact with.”

And that’s clearly why, as he talked with BusinessWest a few months after his arrival in Springfield, Dixon turned the discussion early and often to the people, an estimated 3,000 of them, who will be working at the casino complex — on the front lines and behind the scenes — to present visitors with an experience.

MGM Springfield

Fifteen months or so out, the assignment for Alex Dixon and the team he’s assembling is to bring MGM Springfield, seen in this rendering, to life.

He went on at length about how he will not only play a lead role in hiring team members — especially the eight to 10 people who will comprise the senior management team — but also create the environment in which they will work and the culture that will pervade not only the casino floor but every component of this facility, from the shops to the movie theater to the bowling alley.

This is the very essence of casino operations, he explained, adding that such facilities are not about slot machines and restaurants, ornate hotels, and elaborate shows. They’re about the people providing a brand of service that will draw in visitors — and then bring them back.

With that as a backdrop, Dixon noted that if Mike Mathis, president of MGM Springfield, is the face of the operation, as most would say he is, then he is the “pulse,” or “heartbeat.”

For this issue, BusinessWest talked at length with Dixon to fully grasp everything he meant by that statement.

Background — Check

Before sitting down with BusinessWest, Dixon offered a quick tour of what amounts to MGM’s new, temporary nerve center on the 20th floor at Monarch Place.

The company, which will eventually settle in at 95 State St., adjacent to the casino complex, was operating out of a smaller suite of offices on the ninth floor at Monarch, but with its leadership team starting to come together, more space was deemed necessary.

There is a good deal of it on the 20th floor, where Dixon gestured to a succession of small offices, almost all of them vacant at that time, which will be occupied by seasoned individuals who will have, in some cases, business cards with titles never before seen in Western Mass.

Like ‘vice president of Slots’ and ‘vice president of Table Games,’ for example, two of the positions mentioned by Dixon as he noted who will be occupying some of the offices he passed. There will be other, more traditional roles, such as vice president of Facilities and vice president of Marketing, he went on, adding that he will be spending a good amount of his time in the next several weeks deciding who will take on such responsibilities.

How Dixon came to occupy what amounts to the corner office on the 20th floor, complete with a window from which he can see the casino complex taking shape, is an intriguing story.

Indeed, while he grew up in and around casinos, Dixon didn’t seem in any way destined for work in that industry. But fate and a few chance encounters would change the trajectory of his career path and ultimately put him on a course for the City of Homes.

Our story really begins … well, where you might expect it would when we’re talking about someone with casino work in his blood — Las Vegas — but, as noted, the tome didn’t develop exactly according to script.

“My family moved from the deep south out to Las Vegas to be the porters, the maids, the cooks, the housekeepers, and then, eventually, dealers, in the casinos,” he explained. “My grandmother was a housekeeper, and my dad was a bartender, and I’ve been fortunate to rise in the ranks to general manager.

Alex Dixon

Alex Dixon, seen here in MGM’s nerve center in Monarch Place, says that if Mike Mathis is the face of the company and its casino, he is the ‘pulse’ or ‘heartbeat.’

“I remember the burgeoning of the casino industry before my eyes,” he went on. “In 1990, the Mirage was the first really big facility built with institutional capital. You can imagine what it’s like growing up in Las Vegas as a young boy and seeing this great volcano coming up in the middle of the Las Vegas desert; I thought that was really cool.”

When he was a senior in high school, and student body president, he recalls the theme for his senior year being “Viva Las Vegas,” with each class decorating its hallway in the theme of one of the resorts operating at the time.

But while casinos were in most ways the backdrop for his childhood, his passions were business and government, and he went east, to Washington, D.C., to pursue a degree in Finance at Howard University’s School of Business.

There, he caught what he called the “investment banking bug,” and did his first internship at J.P. Morgan, gaining an introduction to Wall Street and the world of mergers and acquisitions.

He had a second internship at Goldman Sachs and its Energy & Power group, and took a job there upon graduation in 2003. Later, he had the opportunity to join the company’s international operation and spent the better part of 2005 in London, before moving on to the Los Angeles office, where, still focused on M&A, he was a member of the team that advised Disney on its $7.5 billion acquisition of Pixar.

He and his wife would gravitate to Las Vegas to raise a family, though, and upon returning, he made a number of phone calls as he pursued various opportunities. One of them was to Bill Hornbuckle, currently president of MGM Resorts International, who at the time was president and COO of Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.

“Bill put the sell on,” Dixon recalled. “I don’t even remember what the role was, but at the time it just wasn’t the right fit; it was too steep of a financial decline after Wall Street and with the new family and everything else.”

I was very fortunate to learn the business by sitting at the feet of people who had built some of these great facilities in Las Vegas. I had a great number of mentors — people who were able to coach me and inspire me, really.”

Instead, he joined Silver Pacific Advisors, LLC, a boutique investment bank in Vegas that raised capital for developers seeking to build casinos. And it was in that setting that he gained what he considers his first real exposure to general management.

“The developers would put together a management team, the head of slots, the head of table games, and so on,” he recalled. “And in working on the deal as a financial associate, I said, ‘hmmm … that’s what I want to be when I grow up.’”

Odds and Ends

That epiphany, if you will, compelled him to leave Silver Pacific and join Caesars Entertainment, starting as a director of Planning & Analysis and eventually rising in the ranks to vice president and executive associate in Enterprise Shared Services. Along the way, he said, he had the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the business.

“I was very fortunate to learn the business by sitting at the feet of people who had built some of these great facilities in Las Vegas,” he told BusinessWest. “I had a great number of mentors — people who were able to coach me and inspire me, really.”

In 2013, he became assistant general manager of the Horseshoe Baltimore Casino, developed by a group that includes Caesars Entertainment. Like MGM Springfield, the Baltimore operation is an urban casino, one with roughly 1,500 employees, 2,200 slots, and 150 tables.

There, he was in charge of day-to-day activities, and doing pretty much what he will be doing in Springfield, an opportunity that came about by happenstance and, more specifically, a dinner meeting with Mathis.

Dixon interviewed for the position last fall, prevailed over what he assumes was a large field of candidates — he believes his experience with an urban casino on the East Coast certainly helped his cause — and officially joined the team in February.

But he didn’t really put his boots on the ground in Springfield until several weeks later, because there was first a substantial learning curve involving MGM and how it ran its facilities.

“I spent a lot of time getting to know MGM,” he explained. “I was coming from outside the company, and before coming here, I spent a lot of time in Detroit, in Las Vegas, in National Harbor [Maryland], really making sure I got the ethos of the company before coming here to Springfield.”

When asked for a quick synopsis of his job description as general manager, Dixon said it comes down to essentially replicating what he saw at those MGM locations, while also giving the company’s newest casino its own, unique flavor, or culture.

At the Horseshoe Baltimore Casino, Dixon joined the management team roughly two years before the facility opened, a timeline similar to that unfolding in Springfield. And as he talked about what will happen between now and the fall of 2018, he said there is a series of formal and informal timelines, with many of them involving the formation of a team.

Indeed, while there a number of strategic initiatives taking place at once — from the actual buildout of the various facilities to bringing together components of the retail piece, including the restaurants, to the critical work in marketing to get the message out about this facility — the process of assembling a team is paramount.

“In this pre-opening phase, we’re responsible for bringing the facility to life, and that is done by people, so we are going through the interview process for all the roles here,” Dixon said, noting he was on a tight schedule that morning, with several of those interviews also on his calendar.

Much of the focus now is on that senior management team, Dixon went on, using some of those new-to-the-region job titles to explain who might eventually earn them, what goes into those top posts, and how he goes about selecting a candidate.

The vice president of Table Games, for example, is a big job, one to be held down by an individual who will eventually lead a team of several hundred people, he said. Candidates will need to bring an extensive résumé to the table, one that reflects experience at all levels of this gaming division, if you will, as well as leadership abilities.

There will be candidates from within the MGM family, and from across the industry — what Dixon called a “very small world,” despite its seemingly large size — as well, common denominators for each of these top-level jobs.

“You have a new facility that you’re opening in a new town … I had the opportunity to interview for a role, and through a meritocratic process, that’s where I landed,” he said. “So I’m committed to making sure that we give our internal MGM team members a great opportunity, but that we’re also willing to look to the outside to get a great benchmark of how we can infuse talent.

“The VP of Table Games … this is an individual who started at the ground level, as a table-games dealer, and worked their way up,” he explained. “From a game-protection standpoint, as well as how you teach and how you coach — it’s such a technical job that you pretty much have to have done it at all levels to take on this job.”

The table-games employees will comprise the single largest group on the property, Dixon said, adding that there are several layers of administration within that sphere, and the individual at the very top will have a number of responsibilities.

These include working with the area community colleges and other partners to establish a so-called ‘dealers school.’

“He or she will need to identify the location, work with the community colleges on the curriculum, find the instructors who will teach people how to not only count to 21, but ultimately do it with a smile,” Dixon explained. “He or she will be supported by several layers of people — shift managers, assistant shift managers, pit bosses, table-games supervisors, and more.

“The table-games operation will employ upwards of 500 people,” he went on. “And there will be an entire organization, from the people in suits helping to oversee the games to the actual dealers.”

Team-building Exercises

As for the positions several levels down, the ‘front-facing’ team members, as Dixon called them, as opposed to those working behind the scenes, strategies will be put in place for those mass hirings.

When asked about them and the philosophies that will drive the hiring process, Dixon summed it all up by saying, “overall, we hire for attitude, but we train for aptitude,” before elaborating.

“When we go to market and we try to find people, we’re really looking for people who want to smile, who want to learn, who have a great hustle about them to be able to serve guests,” he explained. “We can teach you how to deal cards, we can teach you how to fix a slot machine, we can teach you how to make a great meal, but you have to have that desire on day one, and our hiring process is geared toward finding those people, cultivating them, and getting them into the right roles.”

Dixon acknowledged that he won’t be involved with interviewing and selecting each of the 3,000 people who will eventually wear an MGM Springfield name tag. But he did say that he will “touch” them in some respect, which was his way of saying that he will get to know them whenever possible, and at the very least come to understand every nuance and challenge of the job they perform.

And this brings him back to his track record of donning various uniforms and taking on the corresponding roles for several hours at a time, but also taking the time to listen whenever and wherever he can.

“A big part of my role is to help facilitate and build a culture,” he explained. “And the only way you can do that is by touching people and having an opportunity to not only impart the vision, but listen.

“Part of my job is to understand what impacts the day-to-day role of the front-line employee,” he explained. “So if they’re having trouble getting to work because of a bus drop-off, or if they want to talk about the uniforms they wear or the food in the cafeteria, or about how they can grow and develop outside of work, we need to listen, and we need to provide a workplace that’s best in class.”

As he elaborated, he went all the way back to high school in Las Vegas and his experiences as student body president.

“I had to get to know the nerds, the geeks, the freaks, the jocks, the cheerleaders, and everyone else,” he explained. “And in many respects, it’s the same in this role. “You have the dealers who sit at this table, you have the slot attendants there, and they come in at different times, and because we’re open 24 hours, it’s important to get to know people on all those different shifts; it’s not a Monday-through-Friday, 9-to-5 kind of job.”

And once the doors open at MGM Springfield, they won’t ever close, said Dixon, which is why the next 15 months are so critical to this operation in terms of everything from hiring the right people to putting that culture in place.

“Once we flip on our lights, it’s not like we go home on the weekends,” he explained. “When we flip on to welcome our guests, we don’t close our doors. So once you get on that hamster wheel, you need to be a well-oiled machine.”

Elaborating, he drew an analogy to a marathon, which is what operating a casino is — a long race that, in this case, never really ends.

“If you look at it from the standpoint of a long-distance runner, we’re getting ready for the marathon,” he told BusinessWest. “At this point in the process, we’re in training for this big race that we’re going to run.”

Bottom Line

As part of that training, Dixon is willing to put on — and probably will put on — almost every uniform that will be worn by someone working for MGM Springfield.

He’ll probably have his ‘Alex Dixon’ name tag on, too, complete with his hometown listed underneath — a factoid designed to generate conversation and make connections.

That’s all part of the culture that Dixon was essentially hired to create. It’s a huge job, one that will come with a host of challenges and rewards.

He’s looking forward to all of it — especially the part about being the ‘pulse,’ or the ‘heartbeat,’ of this billion-dollar operation.

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

Departments People on the Move
Alex Dixon

Alex Dixon

Courtney Wenleder

Courtney Wenleder

Marikate Murren

Marikate Murren

MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis announced the appointments of Alex Dixon as general manager and Courtney Wenleder as vice president of Finance and chief financial officer. Dixon assumes responsibility for the resort’s day-to-day leadership and direction, including overseeing all operational aspects of MGM Springfield. Wenleder will direct and oversee the strategic financial planning, operational performance, and financial management of MGM Springfield. Other personnel announcements include Marikate Murren’s promotion to vice president of Human Resources, and several additional senior management hires. Together, these positions will focus on strategic direction, workforce planning and development, and financial planning and oversight to help prepare for the resort’s September 2018 opening. With 10 years of industry experience, Dixon was most recently the vice president and assistant general manager of the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore. There, he helped to open the Horseshoe property both ahead of schedule and under budget. “We are delighted to welcome Alex to the team at MGM Springfield,” Mathis said. “He brings broad industry experience and a passion for delivering hospitality on the East Coast, which will be incredibly valuable to the leadership and operations at MGM Springfield. He has a proven track record for success that will be instrumental in planning, opening, and initiating activities that will undoubtedly further strengthen the performance of MGM Springfield.” Wenleder most recently held the CFO position at New York-New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, where she served for nine years and oversaw significant capital investments and property enhancements, including the introduction of the new retail esplanade. Prior to that she was the vice president of Finance and chief financial officer at Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Miss., where she oversaw the reconstruction of the resort following the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. “Courtney’s extensive experience with our resort operations at two of our company’s signature resorts will be a tremendous asset as our team prepares MGM Springfield to join our expanding regional portfolio,” Mathis said. “She will be instrumental in ensuring MGM Springfield achieves our financial and business goals.” In her new role as Vice President of Human Resources, Murren assumes responsibility for planning and directing all aspects of the talent and human resources functions, including ensuring adherence to labor laws, regulations, and HR corporate policies and procedures for MGM Springfield. She will design and oversee the property’s execution of comprehensive strategies, initiatives, action plans, and processes to improve critical organizational performance in the areas of employee engagement and guest service. She was most recently the director of Human Resources for the property, a role she assumed last June. The MGM Springfield team also has welcomed several additional senior managers, both new to MGM and relocating from other MGM facilities: Michael Custodio has been named director of Property Initiatives, Arlen Carballo is director of Financial Planning & Analysis, and Meagan Lippmann is Learning & Development partner. Rounding out the newest senior-management hires is Jason Randall as director, Talent Acquisition & Development. “I’m excited to have all these talented individuals join the MGM Springfield team,” Mathis said. “The breadth of experience, the leadership qualities, and values of this team gives me a high degree of confidence in our ability to lead MGM Springfield through and past the next phase of our strategic journey of delivering on our enlivened vision for the South End.”

•••••

Christina Royal

Christina Royal

Holyoke Community College President Christina Royal has been appointed to the board of directors of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, a nonprofit public agency that seeks to advance economic development through technological innovation, particularly in key industries such as healthcare, life sciences, information technology, nanotechnology, broadband deployment, and marine sciences. “Through its major divisions — the Innovation Institute, the Massachusetts eHealth Institute, and the Massachusetts Broadband Institute —Mass Tech brings together leaders from industry, government, and higher education to advance technology-based solutions that strengthen regional economies, improve the healthcare system, expand broadband access, and stimulate economic growth throughout the Commonwealth,” according to the Mass Tech website, www.masstech.org. Royal has a strong background in information technology, both in higher education and in the private sector. She was formerly the executive director of Distance Learning and assistant vice president of eLearning and Innovation at Cuyahoga Community College, and the director of Technology-Assisted Learning at Marist College. Before she made the switch to higher education, she worked as a project manager in research and development at CompUSA, and as the director of curriculum at the Beacon Institute for Learning. Royal’s term on the Mass Tech board runs until Nov. 20, 2020. She was sworn in on June 1.

•••••

United Way of Hampshire County (UWHC) announced the appointment of Renee Moss as interim executive director. Moss replaces Jim Ayres, who resigned his position as executive director to serve as president and CEO of United Way of Pioneer Valley. Julie Cowan, UWHC board chair, announced that Moss will serve as interim executive director while the board conducts a search to permanently fill the position. Moss, a UWHC board member, recently retired as longtime executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County. “Renee is well-respected in the community and will bring strong leadership skills to our United Way as we make the transition to a new director. We are grateful that she is willing to give her time and talents to United Way just as she was starting her retirement,” said Cowan. Added Kate Glynn, UWHC board vice chair, “Renee brings impressive experience to the interim director role at UWHC, where she will work with the staff and board on a number of fronts, including the search for a permanent executive. The board of directors is extremely excited to have someone with such a strong nonprofit background and so well-known in the community.” According to Cowan, “Renee was willing to step forward and serve in this capacity. She has been a tremendous board member and volunteer. Our organization is very fortunate to have her step in at this critical time as we prepare for the 2018 Community Campaign.” Moss said she was approached by some United Way officers to see if she would be interested, and she was. “United Way is a great organization, and I’m looking forward to working with the incredible staff.” Moss was with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County for 32 years. Her passion for community collaboration and creating new partnerships is what she enjoyed most about leading that organization. Before moving to Amherst in 1985, Moss taught in the New York City public schools for 10 years. Moss will assume the executive director position on June 26 and is expected to stay until Sept. 22.

•••••

Mike Vedovelli

Mike Vedovelli

With more than 19 years of community and economic-development experience in Western Mass., Mike Vedovelli joined Eversource as its newest community relations specialist. Vedovelli will serve as the company’s liaison for communities in Hampden and Hampshire counties. His focus is supporting Eversource’s electric service business. He is a past board member of DevelopSpringfield and the Chicopee Chamber of Commerce, and a graduate of St. Anselm College. Most recently, Vedovelli served as Chicopee’s director of Community and Economic Development. Prior to that, he served more than seven years as the senior regional director for the Massachusetts Office of Business Development. He’s successfully worked on a number of projects involving site location, expansion and technical assistance generating private investment, economic opportunities, and jobs. He has worked with all of the Western Mass. communities and has strong relationships with municipal officials and business leaders.

•••••

Bay Path University President Carol Leary recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with members of the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council (HSAAC) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leadership. The HSAAC provides advice and recommendations to the Secretary of Homeland Security and its leadership on matters related to homeland security and the academic community. Since its formation, the HSAAC has delivered more than 120 recommendations resulting in new and expanded programs, resources, and initiatives to support the academic community. “I am excited to see that the department is focused on engaging with colleges and universities across the nation,” Leary said. “I am proud to be a member of the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council, which has been an invaluable asset to the Department.” During the meeting, the HSAAC Academic Subcommittee on Countering Violent Extremism presented its report to council members. The report offered a number of recommendations for department consideration that were established through a joint effort of academic leaders and subject-matter experts. DHS leadership also outlined the 2017 National Seminar and Tabletop Exercise (NTTX) event, which will take place Oct. 10-11 at the University of Utah. The two-day event will include workshop sessions, a tabletop exercise, and an after-action review session on preparing participants to respond to a campus emergency. This year’s tabletop event will focus on a failure in campus infrastructure caused by cyberattack. This recurring NTTX series is part of the DHS Campus Resilience Program. The program engages colleges and universities in an effort to foster resilience and bolster campus emergency-preparedness efforts. Following the meeting, Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security Elaine Duke met with HSAAC members for an informational session on the department’s key priorities and challenges.

•••••

Tracey Egloff

Tracey Egloff

James Kelly, president and CEO, announced that Tracey Egloff has joined Polish National Credit Union as vice president of residential lending. Egloff has more than 20 years of experience in all aspects of residential lending, including loan origination, processing, underwriting, compliance, secondary market sales, and loan servicing. She began her career in banking at Northampton Cooperative Bank in 1992 and held various positions in the loan department. She was most recently the vice president of residential lending with successor institution Greenfield Cooperative Bank. She holds a bachelor’s degree from UMass Amherst and is also a graduate of the New England School for Financial Studies at Babson College. “Tracey’s strong background in all aspects of residential lending makes her a perfect choice for helping our members achieve their housing goals and objectives,” said Kelly. “We are extremely pleased to welcome her to the Polish National Credit Union family.”

•••••

Lou Mayo, office manager with Real Living Realty Professionals in Wilbraham, was named the 2017 Realtor of the Year by the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley (RAPV). The announcement was made during the association’s annual awards banquet held June 8 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. As the highest honor given to a member, the Realtor of the Year award is bestowed upon the one person who has shown outstanding service and devotion to the 1,650-member organization during the past 17 months in the areas of Realtor activity, community service, and business activity. A Realtor since 1997, Mayo has been a member of the RAPV board of directors since 2012. He was RAPV president in 2016 and also served on the professional standards, strategic planning, and finance committees, as well as the forms and building task forces. At the state level, Mayo is a member of the board of directors of the Mass. Assoc. of Realtors (MAR). He is the chairman of the Mass. Assoc. of Realtors professional standards committee, a forms committee member, as well as a former member the MAR young professionals network committee. He is a MAR Leadership Academy graduate, and is currently a member of the MAR website task force. At the national level, Mayo has attended many National Assoc. of Realtors (NAR) conferences and trade shows and holds the professional designations of Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), Graduate Realtor Institute (GRI), and Certified Buyer Representative (CBR). Mayo’s community involvement includes providing support through charitable giving to Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Salvation Army, as well as serving as a member of the Granby Bow & Gun Club. In conjuction with the RAPV community service committee, he also contrubuted to the development and construction of four playhouses that were donated to local Boys and Girls Clubs. “I believe strongly in the code of ethics and strive daily to achieve its highest ideals as a Realtor,” Mayo said. “In both my personal and professional life, I desire to uplift the image of the Realtor by embodying the knowledge, character, and wisdom of a top professional.”

•••••

The Springfield Thunderbirds announced the addition of Charles Venezia to the front-office staff as an account executive. Venezia joined the Thunderbirds upon graduation from Western New England University, where he played football and was named an All-Academic team member for his conference three years in a row. On the field, he helped lead the Golden Bears to two conference titles. En route to graduating with his degree in sport management, Venezia spent the 2016-17 academic year interning with the Thunderbirds during the club’s inaugural season.

•••••

Berkshire Bank announced that Sharon Blanchette, first vice president, BSA/AML officer, moderated the cybersecurity panel at the Assoc. of Certified Anti Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS) Connecticut chapter’s third annual conference on May 19. This year’s ACAMS conference focused on the theme “Anti Money Laundering in a Changing World,” which took place at Mohegan Sun. Blanchette attended this event, moderating the cybersecurity panel for the audience and serving as a panelist on the Bank Secrecy Act audit panel. “Cybersecurity is an important and ever-growing topic of discussion in the financial industry, particularly as we continuously adhere to the Bank Secrecy Act,” said Blanchette. “We are constantly defining and redefining compliance and regulations to stay current in a technologically advanced world, so to be able to serve on a panel to discuss this topic and bring further awareness to our community was an exciting opportunity.”

•••••

Rebecca Gray

Rebecca Gray

American International College (AIC) graduate Rebecca Gray, class of 2017, won first place and a $500 cash prize at Springfield Technical Community College’s (STCC) recent Shark Tank competition. Gray delivered one of seven two-minute pitches to a panel of four judges from the local business community. Gray’s idea for her company, Coastline Industries, focuses on efficient, eco-friendly, and renewable energy in the form of underwater turbines. “Solar energy loses 7% of its efficiency in the first year and, if not maintained, can lose up to 40% efficiency in that first year,” she noted. “Wind turbines add to an increase in noise and stress level of birds and interrupt their migration patterns, all contributing to a high environmental impact.” Gray’s proposed underwater turbines would be built 500 yards from the shoreline in New Hampshire and 100 yards below sea level, producing low environmental impact with little disruption to marine life. “The judges provided five minutes of feedback and very intense questioning about the contestants’ business proposals,” Gray said. While Gray’s idea is not a new one — Scotland already uses underwater turbines and is on track to build the world’s largest field this fall with 270 turbines — it is a new concept for the U.S., Gray said. “The United States is far behind in introducing renewable energy due to bureaucracy and other considerations. Eight turbines could power 5,200 homes, and 39% of the nation’s homes are within a thousand-mile reach of a shoreline.” As part of the competition, presenters had to develop a business model, including startup costs. “While the initial project for Coastline Industries will cost approximately $23.6 million to complete, this venture is eligible for $7 million in federal grants and up to $15 million in low-interest federal loans,” Gray said. “The venture seeks $1.6 million in private funding. The starting energy mill of eight turbines, powering 5,200 homes, would bring in $5.72 million in revenue the first year alone. The entire investment will be made back within five years.” Gray’s idea resonated with the panel, and she was granted the top prize of $500. “They said I did a really good job of answering questions on the spot, had confidence in my answers, and knew what I was talking about.” The newly minted AIC graduate, with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, is a New Hampshire native who now resides in Springfield. She will begin a full-time job in finance this July with plans to enter a master’s program in the fall.

Business of Aging Sections

Aging in Place

Suzanne McElroy

Suzanne McElroy says it’s important to match a family with the right caregiver to ensure there’s a comfort level on both sides.

As the Baby Boom generation continues to advance into the golden years, the demand for home care continues to rise, as families embrace a model that keeps seniors stay in their homes while helping them with everyday needs. That means the need for qualified caregivers is rising, too — and it’s not always easy to find them.

Home care is a far cry from, say, plumbing, Suzanne McElroy says. Sure, both careers require specialized skills, but not a lot of plumbers are turned away because they just don’t … feel right.

“I’ve often tried to compare this to other industries, and you can’t,” said McElroy, owner of Home Instead Senior Care in Springfield. “A plumber can come in and fix your pipes, and you don’t have to worry about what they look like or smell like, or how they talk; they just come in and fix your pipes. But I’ve had caregivers rejected for silly things, like a tattoo in the wrong place, or things I’m not legally able to consider, like age, race, or religion.”

Paul Hillsburg, owner and president of Amada Senior Care in West Springfield — who left financial services for a career in this fast-growing field — has observed similar difficulties matching caregivers to families, starting with his own life.

“I saw the challenges we had with my mom in finding qualified caregivers,” he said, noting that she utilized home care in the early stages of her dementia. “My dad fired the first seven. I realized that was an important part of providing care in the home — the personalities need to match. So we take a personalized care approach.”

After all, McElroy said, she has to consider things from the family’s perspective, and why they need a certain comfort level with someone who will be spending lots of time in the home. “It’s not like fixing pipes and leaving; they’re going to be staying and sitting with your mom.”

SEE: List of Home Care Options

The problem, both she and Hillsburg, noted, is that the challenge of making those matches, plus the surge of Baby Boomers into their senior years — around 10,000 are turning 65 every day, on average — are ratcheting up the pressure on home-care agencies to find and retain talent.

“More and more people want to stay at home, and hospitals are actually suggesting home care during discharge,” Hillsburg said. “People want to age in place, to be at home, where their family can come and visit, and where they feel more comfortable.”

Home-care services run the gamut from companionship and household help to assistance with ambulation and medical needs, and the popularity of this option continues to grow, creating worries that demand will eventually outstrip the number of qualified caregivers. That means competition among agencies, which are bringing myriad tools to bear with the goal of helping seniors live as independently as possible.

The Right Choice?

McElroy, who has lectured many times on the topic of choosing a senior housing plan, outlined several considerations that families must discuss, including:

• Physical needs, including activities of daily living — from shopping, cleaning, cooking, and pet care to more intensive help with bathing, ambulating, and eating — and medical needs, which could arise from a sudden condition, such as a heart attack or stroke, or a more gradual condition that slowly needs more care, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

• Home maintenance. “If you’re living alone, your current home may become too difficult or too expensive to maintain,” she noted. “You may have health problems that make it hard to manage tasks such as housework and yard maintenance that you once took for granted.”

• Social and emotional needs. As people age, their social networks may change, with family and long-time friends no longer close by, and neighbors moving away or passing on. At the same time, they may no longer be able to drive and have no access to public transportation. The desire to be around a community of friends and take part in social activities may be paramount.

• Financial needs. “Modifying your home and long-term care can both be expensive, so balancing the care you need with where you want to live requires careful evaluation of your budget.”

The answers to these questions may very well point to assisted living as a better option than home care, but others may be able to age in place, accessing home-care services to better manage activities of daily living, while still enjoying the comfort and security of a residence they have lived in for years or decades.

Aging in place is a less effective senior-housing option once your mobility is limited. Being unable to leave your home frequently and socialize with others can lead to isolation, loneliness, and depression. So, even if you select to age in place today, it’s important to have a plan for the future when your needs may change and staying at home may no longer be the best option.”

“You may also be able to make home repairs or modifications to make your life easier and safer, such as installing a wheelchair ramp, bathtub railings, or emergency response system,” McElroy said.

Home care is a good option, then, for people who can access transportation; live in a safe neighborhood and in a home that can be modified to reflect changing physical needs; don’t have an overwhelming burden of home or yard maintenance; have physical or medical needs that don’t require a high or specialized level of care; and, perhaps most important, have a network of nearby family, friends, or neighbors.

“Aging in place is a less effective senior-housing option once your mobility is limited,” she added. “Being unable to leave your home frequently and socialize with others can lead to isolation, loneliness, and depression. So, even if you select to age in place today, it’s important to have a plan for the future when your needs may change and staying at home may no longer be the best option.”

Individuals and families who do choose home care, Hillsburg said, still have to overcome that initial reluctance to invite a stranger into their home.

“When I meet clients, I do my own personal assessment, trying to link their personalities with the personality of the caregiver,” he explained. “And when the caregiver goes to the family’s home for the first time, I meet them there and introduce them to the family, make sure there’s a comfort level there.”

Hillsburg said his company, part of a national network of Amada franchises, also performs extensive background screening — credit history, DMV records, criminal records, sex-offender registries — to ensure client safety, and also assists people trying to figure out how to pay for care, whether that’s a long-term care policy, veterans’ benefits, reverse mortgages, even life-insurance policies that can be sold back, swapping death benefits for current care.

Paul Hillsburg

Paul Hillsburg says the biggest challenge for home-care companies is finding and retaining quality caregivers in an increasingly competitive arena.

But to build a team of reliable caregivers at a time when the competition for talent is becoming fiercer by the month, a company has to make sure they’re paid well and happy in their jobs, he told BusinessWest.

“It’s a very, very competitive field. The biggest challenge going forward is going to be finding and retaining good, quality caregivers. That’s why we provide 20 hours of free training, or more, if they want it, to all our caregivers, and we pay them while they’re in that training,” he explained. “They want to be treated like a person and respected.”

Cost is still a major consideration for families, McElroy said, especially when agencies have to pay their caregivers competitively. While lower-income services are available through Medicaid and MassHealth, home care still isn’t within reach of everyone who needs it. “That’s only going to change in importance when enough people feel this pain, or the right people feel this pain.”

High-tech, High-touch

At the same time, Hillsburg said, home care continues to absorb technological advances that make it easier for families and companies to assess results, from an online portal Amada offers called Transparent — which allows families to see which duties a caregiver has performed — to a GPS system that lets the company know whether caregivers show up at the right place and time.

Meanwhile, the company’s Discharge Admissions Reduction Team (DART) works with care managers to negotiate transitions between hospital and home care with the goal of reducing hospital readmissions.

“The need for care is going to continue to increase for the next 30 years before we hit the end of the Baby Boom generation,” Hillsburg said by way of explaining the ways companies are honing their services to meet the needs of this population.

Still, at the end of the day, McElroy said, families are most concerned with whether the caregiver increased their loved one’s quality of life. She recalled one client who requested someone versed in quilting, to help her thread needles and otherwise allow her to continue enjoying her favorite pastime.

“That’s the heart of what we’re doing. Yes, we’re helping them out of bed and into the shower, but if we can help someone live the live they want, that’s what’s driving the spirit of our business,” she explained. “It’s hospitality; it’s customer service. You have to love what you’re doing. You have to love the mission and love the work.”

After all, “whenever I have someone raving about a caregiver, it’s not because they came in for a few hours and got the job done; it’s because they made a difference in someone’s life,” McElroy said. “They can be doing the grossest thing ever, but when they leave, if the person takes their hand and says, ‘I don’t know what I would do without you,’ they’re flying. They can’t wait to go back.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Sections Technology

Human Touch

NetLogix President Marco Liquori

NetLogix President Marco Liquori

Information-technology solutions providers can easily get lost in a maze of technical jargon, but that’s the last thing Marco Liquori wants to throw at customers. Instead, the technicians at his 13-year-old company, NetLogix, are trained to communicate clearly with clients about their network needs — and then meet those needs, in the background, so businesses can focus on growth, not computer issues. A recent customer-satisfaction report suggests the Westfield-based firm is doing something right.

When Marco Liquori talks about how his IT company, NetLogix, sets itself apart, he doesn’t go right into technical jargon. In fact, he tries to avoid it.

“We have some business savvy; we’re a small business ourselves,” he told BusinessWest. “We take that knowledge to our clients, and, when we do talk to them, it’s not geek-speak, but business recommendations in plain English.”

That’s actually one of the points on a list he’s prepared called “10 Things We Do Better.” Some of them — delving into areas like network security, budgeting for IT services, and the difference between proactive maintenance and reactive response — get into the nitty-gritty of NetLogix’s services, but many are common-sense goals that wouldn’t be out of place in companies in myriad industries.

Take phone calls, for instance. “We answer our phones live and respond quickly,” he said, noting that callers will always get a human being, not a recording or voice mail, and those calls are followed up by a technician within the hour — actually, the average is 12 minutes.

Those touches are part of the reason why a third-party monitoring system, SmileBack, which tracks customer satisfaction for companies, reported that NetLogix scored a 99.4% favorable rating from clients in 2016 — the highest customer-satisfaction score it recorded last year.

netlogixbuilding

“That’s unheard-of in our industry; our competitors are unable to say that,” Liquori said. But it’s not a surprise, he added; it’s a goal the company works toward. “Our techs are incentivized to get high satisfaction scores; they’re compensated not on billable hours, but on efficiency and customer satisfaction.”

Of course, part of achieving high satisfaction scores is actually getting the job done, and this is where a shift in the company’s strategy several years ago has paid dividends and grown the Westfield-based firm — which Liquori describes as a network-management, cloud, and systems-technology integrator providing end-to-end solutions for clients — to a 12-employee operation, and why his plans to keep expanding the company look promising indeed.

Entrepreneurial Itch

Liquori had worked for several other computer and IT companies — “value-added resellers was what we called them back in the day” — but business wasn’t great in the years following the dot-com bust. In 2004, the firm he was working for decided to take his business in a different direction, focusing more on application development. In the transition, Liquori decided to set out on his own — even in that tough economic climate.

“I was on my own for a year, but we grew, slowly and steadily, and we’ve been growing ever since,” he told BusinessWest. “We were originally a break-fix service — when people had issues, they would call us, and we’d go out and fix them.”

During that time, he was developing a book of business focusing on a handful of industries in which NetLogix still specializes today, including insurance agencies, law firms, medical and dental practices, and professional services like accounting firms. But the business model needed tweaking.

We try to understand each client’s business need for technology and address it. We help them overcome challenges they may have with some new technology or new processes.”

“It was a more reactive model. As an issue occurred, we’d go out and fix the problem, and we’d bill for the time we worked,” he explained. “Over the past few years, we transitioned to a managed-services model that’s more proactive in nature. We’re constantly monitoring every system out there for our clients.”

That encompases everything from preventing cyberattacks and monitoring for malicious activity to installing Windows and third-party application updates to managing firewalls and developing disaster-recovery strategies.

“We try to understand each client’s business need for technology and address it,” he said. “We help them overcome challenges they may have with some new technology or new processes.”

Under the old system, the more hours NetLogix’s technicians worked, the more money the company made. But a managed-services model is a win-win for both sides on multiple levels, he explained. “With this, the overall objective is to make IT spending predictable for the client, which helps them them budget accurately. They pay a fee for unlimited support.”

That’s an advantage over many companies that hold fast to a more reactive model, he said, adding that clients like knowing exactly what they’ll be spending — no surprises — and can focus their energies outside the IT realm, on growing the core functions of their business.

defendingagainstcyberattacks

In fact, the fixed price, all-inclusive support plan includes a commitment to resolve any issues that arise in an expeditious manner. Since everything is included in one price, Liquori explained, NetLogix is highly motivated to use its time wisely and bring each situation to a successful completion — and clients aren’t nickel-and-dimed just at the time they need the most help.

“Our goal is to resolve issues as quickly as possible, and make sure their computers are back up fully and functioning normally as soon as possible,” he said.

But he kept coming back to the firm’s security-first approach. NetLogix’s first task is to evaluate a client’s network and explain any potential risks and exposures, and recommend adjustments to protect the network and client data — which is of massive importance for companies that store patient records or financial information, for example.

“With our full suite of multi-layered security in place, none of our clients were affected by the WannaCry ransomware attack — or any other ransomware,” Liquori said, referring to last month’s worldwide attack targeting computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system, encrypting data and demanding ransom payments to free it. Within a day of the attack, more than 230,000 computers in 150 countries were affected.

“We keep all our engineers constantly trained in the latest technology that’s out there, and constantly go to security seminars and network-security training events,” he went on. “Security is the biggest thing, and we stay on top of it.”

Growth Pattern

At the heart of NetLogix’s services, though, is its strategic IT planning. Liquori said he considers himself a strategic partner with clients, listening first and offering solutions second.

“I really enjoy a challenging technical issue and being able to provide a solution that meets a business objective and saves the customer money by improving efficiencies and improving security,” he told BusinessWest. “Customers may be losing sleep over these things. I enjoy the fact that we can take that burden off them so they can focus on their business.”

Liquori said he’s certainly looking to grow beyond 12 employees, and geography isn’t the barrier it used to be in the IT world. “Most of what we do is remote, so we can work in almost any geographic area,” he explained, adding that the firm covers most of the Northeast. But face time is important, too.

“For our managed-services clients, we will engage with them proactively — quarterly or semiannually, depending on the size of the organization. We will sit with the business owner or office manager for strategic IT planning. We’ll talk about areas where they’re weak or vulnerable, get those adjusted and up to speed. It may be making sure they have a backup recovery solution, or a computer may be out of date, so we plan together for updating their computers to help them stay atop the curve.”

And sleep better at night.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Building Permits Departments

The following building permits were issued during the month of May 2017.

AGAWAM

BMA Realty, LLC
11 Ramah Circle North
$19,000 — Re-roof building

FRP Holdings Agawam, LLC
7-19 Springfield St.
$49,064 — Re-roof half of Friendly’s and re-roof 180’ canopy

Springfield Water & Sewer Commission
190 M St.
$90,500 — Re-roof building

Town of Agawam
36 Main St.
$156,822 — Re-roof Town Hall

Town of Agawam
1347 Main St.
$23,300 — Re-roof maintenance building

AMHERST

Amherst-Pelham Regional School District
21 Mattoon St.
$359,450 — Remove and replace gym floor, basketball equipment, bleachers, and divider curtain at Amherst-Pelham Regional High School

The Common School
521 South Pleasant St.
$3,970 — Install new rubber roof on library

Grandonico Properties, LLC
23 North Pleasant St.
$2,400 — Install sign cabinet above restaurant doorway

Hampshire College
West Street
$60,000 — Interior renovation of portion of first floor of Johnson Library to create Knowledge Commons

CHICOPEE

E & R Realty
749 Meadow St.
$6,487.23 — Add eight horn strobes and one pull station to existing fire system

Elms College
291 Springfield St.
$92,700 — Re-roof building

Elms College
291 Springfield St.
$685,205 — Construct new offices on second floor of library building

Elms College
291 Springfield St.
$465,550 — Install new paneling and flooring in chapel of Berchmans Hall

UH Storage Ltd.
499 Montgomery St.
$56,950 — Re-roof building

DEERFIELD

University of Massachusetts
148 River Road
$7,960 — Re-roof tobacco barn

EASTHAMPTON

Interland Real Estate, LLC
180 Pleasant St.
$30,000 — Interior build-out for new office space

KC Tactical, LLC
412 Main St.
$926,586 — Interior build-out for offices and bathrooms

Keystone Enterprises
122 Pleasant St.
$34,222 — Interior build-out

EAST LONGMEADOW

Excel Dryer
357 Chestnut St.
$104,250 — Roofing

Power Clean Fitness
45 Baldwin St.
$4,760 — Security and fire alarm

GREENFIELD

Center for Human Development
102 Main St.
$3,159,000 — Remodel interior to create integrated healthcare facility with experior facade upgrade to front of building and small addition at existing loading dock

Rosenberg Property, LLC
311 Wells St.
$35,000 — Extend sprinkler system

TCB Leyden Woods Limited Partnership
Leyden Road
$3,400 — Install ADA swing door

HADLEY

Pizza Hut of America
424 Russell St.
$1,169,366 — Construct a new urgent-care facility

Thayercare Inc.
49 Middle St.
$500 — Install ductwork from two kitchen exhaust hoods vented outdoors

LONGMEADOW

GPT Longmeadow, LLC
714 Bliss Road
$234,547 — Alterations to interior for new bakery

Longmeadow Mall, LP
791 Williams St.
$5,430 — Re-roof canopy only at White Hut/Longmeadow Kitchen

PALMER

Camp Ramah of New England
39 Bennett St.
$2,000 — Repair floor

Palmer DG, LLC
2 Breckenridge St.
$457,273 — Build new Dollar General store

SOUTH HADLEY

AT&T Mobility
8 Industrial Dr.
$5,000 — Add three new remote radios to AT&T shelter

Berkshire Hills Music
48 Woodbridge St.
$3,750 — Install fire-suppression system

Loomis Village Inc.
246 North Main St.
$299,760 — Renovate Gardenside Pavilion

Mount Holyoke College
College Street
$13,300 — Renovate existing space into three baths and storage room

SOUTHWICK

Crestview Construction
25 Industrial Road
$50,000 — New storage building

Grist Mill Plaza
604-610 College Highway
$13,000 — Replace pillars

King Brothers Decorating Center
617 College Highway
$11,500 — Replace windows, repair porch

SPRINGFIELD

Amerco Real Estate
88 Birnie Ave.
$8,000 — Remove office partitions, ceiling tiles, floor and wall coverings

CBRE
1341 Main St.
$75,000 — Convert existing space into new AMT vestibule for Bank of America

City of Springfield
1550 Main St.
$29,994 — New office dividing wall to make two spaces, plumbing and electrical work

Gardening the Community
200-206 Walnut St.
$190,000 — Erect a wood-frame farm-stand structure

Joanny Quezada
453 Belmont Ave.
$1,200 — Replace vinyl siding

Springfield College
263 Alden St.
$20,000 — Divide room into three offices in Alumni Hall, new acoustical ceilings, HVAC and electrical work

WEST SPRINGFIELD

66 West Springfield Realty, LLC
885 Riverdale St.
$4,266,000 — Construct 121-room hotel

180 Daggett Dr., LLC
180 Daggett Dr.
$100,000 — Facade alterations to existing building for conversion to multi-tenant property

EPT Nineteen Inc.
864 Riverdale St.
$1,800,000 — Renovate interior of cinema complex

Polonez Parcel Service
100 Doty Circle
$24,250 — Re-roof building

Eugene Rozenberg
758 Westfield St.
$29,500 — Re-roof building

WILBRAHAM

Northeast Auto
2423 Boston Road
$2,400 — New signvvv

Daily News

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University President Carol Leary recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with members of the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council (HSAAC) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leadership.

The HSAAC provides advice and recommendations to the Secretary of Homeland Security and its leadership on matters related to homeland security and the academic community. Since its formation, the HSAAC has delivered more than 120 recommendations resulting in new and expanded programs, resources, and initiatives to support the academic community.

“I am excited to see that the department is focused on engaging with colleges and universities across the nation,” Leary said. “I am proud to be a member of the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council, which has been an invaluable asset to the Department.”

During the meeting, the HSAAC Academic Subcommittee on Countering Violent Extremism presented its report to council members. The report offered a number of recommendations for department consideration that were established through a joint effort of academic leaders and subject-matter experts.

DHS leadership also outlined the 2017 National Seminar and Tabletop Exercise (NTTX) event, which will take place Oct. 10-11 at the University of Utah. The two-day event will include workshop sessions, a tabletop exercise, and an after-action review session on preparing participants to respond to a campus emergency. This year’s tabletop event will focus on a failure in campus infrastructure caused by cyberattack. This recurring NTTX series is part of the DHS Campus Resilience Program. The program engages colleges and universities in an effort to foster resilience and bolster campus emergency-preparedness efforts.

Following the meeting, Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security Elaine Duke met with HSAAC members for an informational session on the department’s key priorities and challenges.

Daily News

LONGMEADOW — Most people dream of the day they can retire, envisioning hammocks and travel, maybe volunteering and spending more time with family and friends. Achieving this dream is much more likely for those who plan and prepare for their financial future. And yet, according to an Ipsos/USA Today survey of 1,250 adults aged 45-65 conducted in January, only 59% say they’re very or somewhat prepared for retirement.

JGS Lifecare will host a retirement-planning seminar, “Securing Your Retirement,” on Wednesday, June 7, from 6 to 7 p.m. at Ruth’s House, 780 Converse St., Longmeadow.

David Fedor, president of Fedor Financial Group in West Springfield, will discuss how to transform Social Security into a winning retirement strategy. Fedor is a certified financial planner and chartered retirement-planning counselor, and an active member of the Estate Planning Council of Hampden County since 2008. In addition, he joined the Western Mass. Eldercare Professional Assoc. in 2013 to stay current with issues facing the elderly.

“At JGS Lifecare, we provide for more than just the physical needs of our clients and residents,” President and CEO Martin Baicker said. “We offer programs and services designed to improve their overall well-being. Our JGS LifeEd Community Education Program allows us to offer educational seminars that benefit not only our clients, but our community as well.”

As part of the JGS LifeEd Community Education Program, this event is free and open to the public. Registration is requested by calling Mary-Anne Schelb at (413) 567-6212, ext. 3105.

Daily News

LONGMEADOW — The Massachusetts House Committee on Technology and Intergovernmental Affairs, chaired by state Rep. Angelo Puppolo Jr., will host a legislative hearing on Monday, June 19 at 10:30 a.m. at Wright Hall on the Bay Path University campus to learn about emerging cyber threats and career opportunities in the field of cybersecurity management.

The legislative hearing, titled “Cyber Threats, Cybersecurity, Cyber Careers,” will offer businesses, organizations, and interested individuals an opportunity to provide testimony on issues addressing risks and responses to cyber threats, including the growing skills gap, with thousands of related jobs currently going unfilled in Massachusetts.

Bay Path University President Carol Leary will welcome legislators to the campus and to the legislative hearing. Leary was recently appointed to the Academic Advisory Council of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Larry Snyder, Bay Path University’s director of Cybersecurity Programs, will provide testimony about the new and increasing threats in cybersecurity and about the myriad management jobs currently available and going unfilled. He will share ways in which Bay Path and the academic community can play a role in meeting the growing demand for skilled cybersecurity managers.

“As a Commonwealth, we need to be preparing the next generation of cybersecurity leaders and managers to protect the public from cyber attacks,” Puppolo said. “I am pleased to hold a hearing on this topic at Bay Path University, an emerging leader in providing a career pathway in this critical area.”

Leary said there is a critical need for cybersecurity professionals and many opportunities for women entering the field. Currently, about 2 million cybersecurity jobs worldwide are going unfilled, some 200,000 in the U.S. alone. Women fill only 9% of cybersecurity jobs worldwide.

The conference is free and open to the public. Those interested should register on the Bay Path website at bit.ly/2rEsbuS.

Daily News

LEE — Lee Bank recently announced the promotion of three leaders within the company and the addition of a mortgage officer to support its continued growth in 2017.

Susie Brown has been named to the position of senior vice president, Human Resources and Administration; Paula Gangell-Miller has been named to the position of vice president, Community Banking – Retail Operations; and Paula Lewis has been named to the position of first vice president, Retail Lending. They have a combined 70 years of tenure with Lee Bank, one of the few remaining local and independent full-service banks in the Berkshires.

In addition, Kathy Kelly has joined Lee Bank as a mortgage officer in its Pittsfield office. Kelly has been a mortgage professional for most of her banking career, with First Agricultural Bank, Legacy Banks, and most recently Berkshire Bank.

Brown has been employed at Lee Bank for more than 37 years and has worked in many areas of the bank, including operations, human resources, building and maintenance, security, and administration. She will continue to oversee human resources, administration and security, and management of board meetings and governance processes for Lee Bank and its holding company, Berkshire Financial Services.

Gangell-Miller joined Lee Bank 29 years ago and has been involved in many facets of the bank throughout the years, having held positions as teller, operations supervisor, community banker, branch manager, and area manager, in addition to her new role.

Lewis joined Lee Bank in 2012 as vice president of Mortgage Loan Operations. In her new position, she will oversee residential lending and will sit on Lee Bank’s ALCO committee as well as its executive loan committee.

“I am pleased to announce these well-deserved promotions and to welcome Kathy Kelly to the Lee Bank team,” said President Chuck Leach. “I’m confident that Kathy will not only mesh with but also enhance our culture just as Susie Brown, Paula Lewis, and Paula Gangell-Miller have for many, many years. Lee Bank is very fortunate to have an extremely valuable culture of loyal, dedicated employees who are not only outstanding contributors in the workplace, focused on continued excellence in serving our customers, but also to our Berkshire community.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts is accepting applications for $150,000 in funding over three years from Springfield-based nonprofit organizations serving young women to partner with the fund in implementing the Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) Springfield Partnership, a national, multi-sector, three-year pilot program focused on driving long-term prosperity for young women in the city of Springfield.

The YWI Springfield Partnership will be implemented through the collaboration of the YWI steering committee, facilitated by the Women’s Fund, and a Young Woman’s Advisory Council.

The successful organization, or collaborative group of organizations, will lead and facilitate the Young Women’s Advisory Council, comprising up to 20 young women ages 12 to 24. Bright, self-motivated, and collaborative young women with a history of community leadership and personal achievement will be selected through a competitive, city-wide nomination process.

Through a year-long leadership-development program and ongoing relationships with YWI steering committee adult mentors, these young leaders will examine barriers, explore solutions, and make recommendations for policy and other improvements that address cultural, social, educational, safety, and economic challenges that young women face in the Springfield area. In addition to guiding the young women, working closely with the Women’s Fund, the selected organization(s) will connect with YWI efforts across the country to share best practices and coordinate research and evaluation activities. The partner organization(s) will also serve on the steering committee and network with other partners, funders, and the general public about the program.

Proposals are due by Friday, June 2. Interested organizations are strongly encouraged to contact the Women’s Fund with any questions about the program before submitting an application.

The National Collaborative of Young Women’s Initiatives is a collective national strategy that addresses core structural issues that keep low-income young women from experiencing robust health, economic security, personal safety, and leadership opportunities. In addition to the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, foundation partners include the Dallas Women’s Foundation, New York Women’s Foundation, Women’s Foundation of California, Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham, and Washington Area Women’s Foundation.

Banking and Financial Services Sections

At This Early Juncture, We Honestly Cannot Tell

By Kristina Drzal-Houghton, CPA MST

Kristina Drzal-Houghton

Kristina Drzal-Houghton

President Trump’s skeletal outline of a tax package, unveiled at the White House late last month in a single-page statement filled with bullet points, was less a plan than a wish list.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Gary Cohn, the director of Trump’s National Economic Council, laid out the skeleton of a plan to reporters. They pitched his new tax proposal as a cut for the middle class and not the wealthy. However, it appears as if it would undoubtedly mean lower taxes for top earners, while the impact on middle incomes is less clear.

The proposal envisions slashing the tax rate paid by businesses large and small to 15%. Lowering the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15% is one of the most aggressive moves in the plan. The administration says it gets the rate down to where it is for most other industrialized nations.

Additionally, corporations would pay reduced or no taxes on foreign profits brought back to the U.S. It would be a special, one-time opportunity to bring home cash that they are parking overseas. They did not say how low that rate would be or how they would ensure that the money would be invested productively.

Pass-through businesses, such as S corporations and LLCs, would also pay the same 15% tax rate that Trump has proposed for corporations. As the name suggests, pass-through businesses pass their income through to their owners, who pay tax at their individual rates. For high-income earners, the rate could decrease from 39.6% to 15%. Critics have noted that this will not only benefit small family businesses, but also large business empires like Trump’s own.

On the individual tax front, the number of tax brackets for individuals is reduced from seven to three: 10%, 25% and 35%. The Trump administration did not say where those brackets begin and end. Individual tax rates currently have a ceiling of 39.6% and a floor of 10%. That lowers the top rate by nearly five percentage points, easing the tax burdens on most Americans, including, again, the rich.

Under the plan, the top federal capital-gains rate is cut from 23.8% to 20%. This is achieved by eliminating a 3.8% tax that is used to fund the Affordable Care Act. The reduction is meant to create greater incentives for people to invest.

Currently, single individuals have a standard deduction of $6,350, and married couples can deduct $12,700 from their taxable income. The president’s plan would double the standard deduction. That is intended to put more money in the pockets of the average taxpayers who do not itemize their deductions. It has the added benefit of simplifying the preparation of tax returns for more people. Cohn tried to frame this as a benefit to middle- and lower-income people who don’t have deductions, saying some people would pay little or no taxes under Trump’s plan.

The one-page blueprint proposes, without specifics, to “eliminate target tax breaks that mainly benefit the wealthiest taxpayers.” The proposal would scrap most itemized deductions, such as those for state and local tax payments, a valuable break for taxpayers in Massachusetts and Connecticut, which have high income-tax rates as well as real-estate taxes. But the president would leave in place popular breaks for mortgage interest, charitable contributions, and retirement savings.

The plan would eliminate the estate tax and alternative minimum tax, a parallel system that primarily hits wealthier people by effectively limiting the deductions and other benefits available to them — both moves that would richly benefit Trump himself.

In a brief session with reporters, Cohn and Mnuchin said they had been toiling for weeks on the proposal, much of which closely resembles the plan Trump championed as a presidential candidate. They argued that it would spur robust economic growth that would, along with the elimination of deductions, cover the potentially multi-trillion-dollar proposal entirely, a prospect that even many Republicans believe is virtually impossible.

“This will pay for itself with growth and with reduction of different deductions and closing loopholes,” Mnuchin said, repeating his optimistic estimate that the plan would spur the economy to grow at a rate of 3% annually. “The economic plan under Trump will grow the economy and will create massive amounts of revenues, trillions of dollars in additional revenues.”

The non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has estimated that the Trump outline could cost $5.5 trillion in revenues. The likelihood of our needing to worry about the accuracy of this estimate seems slim given recent developments.

Congressional leaders reached a bipartisan agreement on April 30 to fund the government through September, effectively ending any suspense about the possibility of a government shutdown. The agreement includes increased funding for the military and for border security. But it does not include funding for the wall that President Trump wants to build along the border with Mexico, one of his major campaign promises.

While the agreement avoids the embarrassment of a government shut-down, it also gives a glimpse of the reluctance of lawmakers to bend to Trump’s spending priorities, like his desire for sharp cuts to domestic programs, with the increase in funding for medical research a prime example.

While you may want to consult your tax adviser about the possible benefits the Trump plan would have on your taxes, I would suggest you hold off on changing your withholdings or estimated tax payments for 2017.

Kristina Drzal-Houghton, CPA MST is the partner in charge of Taxation at Holyoke-based Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.; (413) 536-8510.

Daily News

WEST SPRINGFIELD — The Hampden County Bar Assoc. is partnering with Pro-Shred Security and Century Investment Co. to hold a community shredding day on Friday, May 12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Century Shopping Center, 219 Memorial Ave., West Springfield.

Shredding protects private information, and recycling helps the environment. This event is free and open to the public (four-box limit) with a donation of a non-perishable food item for a local food pantry.

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno (left) and Police Commissioner John Barbieri

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno (left) and Police Commissioner John Barbieri say community-policing efforts are changing perceptions — and reality — about crime in the city.

Most people are familiar with the major projects underway in Springfield: the $950 million MGM casino, the $90 million renovation of Union Station, and the $95 million CRRC MA rail-car factory being built at the former Westinghouse site.

But a highly successful, multi-pronged program to improve public safety that was created by Mayor Domenic Sarno and the Springfield Police Department has gone on mostly behind the scenes and yielded remarkable results.

“We have had a 20% drop in crime since 2015,” said Police Commissioner John Barbieri.

Officials attribute the dramatic reduction to a number of factors. They include an increase in police officers (48 were added from the last academy, and in about a month another 50 will be sworn in), a highly effective C3 (community policing) program, an ongoing strategic analysis of crime by a division in the police department that has been dramatically increased, leadership classes for police officers, a new computer program on laptops in cruisers that pinpoint where recent crimes have occurred and allows police officers to read reports about them, and other measures that have made a decided difference.

Officials are proud of the recorded success, but know that changing public perception remains an ongoing challenge.

“Perception and attitude equal reality, and we are continuing to battle the negative perceptions people have toward crime and urban cities by enhancing public safety and providing increased police visibility,” Sarno said, noting that, in the past, businesses interested in moving to Springfield typically asked about public safety, but that conversation rarely occurs today.

downtown police presence

The downtown police presence will be boosted by a number of well-lit kiosks and substations.

Barbieri agreed. “The goal for the future is to create a high degree of police visibility downtown which reflects modern-day standards,” he said. “Whenever people travel to a metro area, they worry about crime, but an increase in police presence combats their fear.”

He added that public safety and economic development complement each other, and the entire police department has been reorganized.

“We’ve a made a commitment to the community in terms of accountability and responsiveness,” Barbieri noted, explaining that the department’s approach has differed from most large cities, where attempts to suppress crime are not typically linked to accountability. For example, some police departments might increase arrests or tickets for offenses such as littering, but since 99% of people are law-abiding, those tactics don’t generate cooperation or lead to an increase in information from residents about problems that haven’t yet surfaced.

“Our officers will never know the neighborhoods they work in as well as the people who live there, no matter how long they are assigned to an area,” Barbieri said, as he spoke about the difference community policing has made in establishing respect and rapport between Springfield police officers and residents.

“Crime is complex, and it takes a unified approach by nonprofits, businesses, schools, and local, state, and federal partners to deal with the issues that cause it,” he continued. “Reducing crime is not just about making arrests; it’s about arresting the right people who will not reform or seek help, as well as resolving neighborhood problems.”

They can include derelict properties, and to that end, Sarno created a Quality of Life/Ordinance Flex Squad in 2008 to deal with properties that are neglected or affect the quality of life of nearby residents. Members include the police department, building and code enforcement, the city’s law department, and the mayor’s office. The fire department and housing department also offer assistance when needed, and the collaborative approach has proven effective.

Sarno noted, as an example of success, a project that involved multiple entities to deal with the old River Inn at the corner of State and Thompson streets. It had been a troubled location for two decades before it was condemned in 2011, then purchased by DevelopSpringfield at a foreclosure auction and demolished. There are other examples of success related to the vision of creating a vibrant downtown where people feel safe and can enjoy and appreciate the Innovation District, Union Station, the Quadrangle, the MGM casino, and the businesses and eateries that already exist as well as those that will grow around them.

“But no matter how much money is spent on marketing, word of mouth is key,” Sarno said, adding that highly successful events, such as the Jazz & Roots Festival in August that attracted more than 12,000 people from all over New England and New York, are making a difference in perception and reality, which is critical because Union Station will be used by 4 million people each year and the MGM casino will bring in at least 10,000 guests on a daily basis when it opens.

For this issue, BusinessWest focuses on measures that officials in Springfield and its police department have taken to improve public safety and the overall perception of the City of Homes.

Ongoing Work

When Sarno was elected mayor in 2008, the city had significant problems and was being managed by a state Finance Control Board due to a $41 million budget deficit. But that board was dissolved in 2009, and in addition to addressing the city’s finances, Sarno took steps to improve public safety and quality of life in all of Springfield’s neighborhoods.

New lighting was installed downtown, the police presence was strengthened in the former entertainment district, which had been attracting large numbers of undesirable people, and the size of the police force was increased.

In addition, MGM made a commitment to spend $1.5 million annually for 15 years to create and maintain a public-safety district downtown due to the traffic it will bring to the city. The district runs from the south end of Mill Street to Union Station, to Riverfront Park, which is being renovated, and up to the Quadrangle.

But perhaps one of the most important changes was the establishment of C3 policing in vulnerable neighborhoods where high levels of poverty, truancy, and healthcare problems exist. Special police units have been created and put in place in four areas: Mason Square, the South End, the North End, and lower Forest Park.

MGM will be an important piece of Springfield’s resurgence

MGM will be an important piece of Springfield’s resurgence, Mayor Domenic Sarno says, but it’s only one piece.

Police officers in these units have formed strong bonds with families and children through a number of measures. They have walked thousands of students to school via a program called the Walking School Bus, attend school sports events and cheer students to success, participate in community events, and recently collaborated with neighborhood agencies to hold an Easter-egg hunt.

Every police academy recruit receives C3 policing and de-escalation training and volunteers on a regular basis in the community, where they mix and mingle and take part in a wide variety of activities.

Weekly meetings are held in each neighborhood that are attended by representatives from 60 agencies, including churches, local businesses, and nonprofits such as the YMCA, YWCA, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. The number of residents who attend the meetings is growing, and many provide information about issues that need to be addressed.

“The philosophy of C3 policing is carried over into our entire uniformed division,” Barbieri said, noting that all concerns expressed by residents are taken seriously.

The mayor said the city’s C-3 policing program (which was named a Difference Maker by BusinessWest in 2013) has been so successful, it is being used as a model across the country, and Barbieri has spoken about it before many audiences.

In addition, the police commissioner established a Crime Analysis Unit in 2014 that allows the police department to determine trends and patterns.

“We look at trends from the previous year and hold weekly meetings with all of our commanding officers and supervisors to go over crime that has occurred,” Barbieri said, explaining that they discuss problem properties, prolific offenders, and strategies that will be used to resolve issues. “There is a high level of accountability.”

Sarno works closely with Barbieri and gave a green light to the idea of installing a Crime View program on the laptops in every police cruiser. The technology gives officers detailed information about incidents that have taken place over the previous seven days in the area they are assigned to patrol.

“It pinpoints where the crime occurred and allows officers to read reports related to each incident, including the time of day and day of the week it took place, so they can self-deploy into the areas where they are needed the most,” Barbieri said, noting that residents can also text tips or reports anonymously about problems or concerns.

Although a police presence is not always visible in some neighborhoods, that happens for a reason, as it doesn’t make sense for officers to be limited to a very small area. For example, if a rash of housebreaks are occurring in a neighborhood, an appropriate contingent can move into that area.

However, in the near future, the police presence downtown will increase and be highly visible. Plans are in place to build a number of well-lit police kiosks and substations in the public safety district, and Union Station will have its own police office.

Call-for-service kiosks will also be installed throughout the area, containing cameras that videotape action on the street, and the C3 squads will be expanded.

“People will see blue wherever they go,” Barbieri said, noting that additional police officers assigned to the area will be hand-picked and will adopt a customer-service approach.

In addition, programs in the schools and community centers are yielding positive results: the truancy rate has been cut in half, and young people are forming relationships with police due to their participation in community events and the Walking School Bus program.

The entire police department is making strides, and is the only one in the country that provides peer-to-peer anti-corruption training without being mandated to do so by a federal consent decree. In addition, the strategic crime unit will eventually become a 24/7 operation and will provide information to officers in real time as crime is occurring.

Sarno believes that, as Springfield adds more attractions and confidence rises, there will be an increase in demand for housing downtown, and Baby Boomers who left years ago may want to return.

The $6 million renovation of the former Morgan Square complex at 15 Taylor St., located a block from Union Station, serves as a cornerstone of new residential redevelopment and potential for growth in the future. The complex has been named SilverBrick Lofts Springfield, and 25 of its one- to three-bedroom apartments, with rents ranging from $795 to $1,235, have been reserved for teachers.

Kevin Kennedy, the city’s chief Development officer, said another example of progress is the $40 million renovation of the Chestnut Towers complex by Related Beal. When the towers were built 40 years ago, the property was known for its luxury apartments, but the state foreclosed on the complex in 1996, and after that occurred, it became a hotspot for drugs, violence, and other crimes.

But that is another site where progress is occurring. “Related Beal plans to spend about $100,000 on each of the 489 apartment units,” said Kennedy. “A key component of its plan involves working with the police department to get rid of negative tenants and provide reassurance to the good families who live there.”

He noted that there has been a change in management, the developer is working with police to hire a new security director, and it has partnered with the city to provide better housing and improve the quality of life for new and existing residents.

In addition, Pynchon Plaza will be updated and renovated. It was built in 1976 as a gateway between downtown and the Springfield Museums and Quadrangle, and the city is going out to bid for designer services for a plan to improve it in phases.

New Chapter

Sarno believes confidence in public safety will grow alongside new entertainment venues and spur more investment.

“MGM put Springfield on the map, and the new CRRC MA plant and Union Station revitalization has led to meetings every week with businesses and developers who want to come to Springfield,” he said, noting that the City of Homes has an AA+ rating from Standard & Poor’s, and the last two city budgets were not only balanced, but contained reserves.

Crime — as well as the perception of it — is being reduced, and officials are proud of the work being done by the police department. “When Springfield police officers were asked to stand up to prepare the city for growth, they stood tall and embraced the community,” Barbieri said.

Sarno calls Springfield police officers “sentinels of peace” and says they are making a positive difference 24 hours a day.

“In the next five years, there will be dramatic changes in Springfield,” he said, “and we are working hand in glove with the police department to keep our city safe.”

 

Springfield at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1852
Population: 156,000 (2016)
Area: 33.2 square miles
County: Hampden
Residential Tax Rate: $19.66
Commercial Tax Rate: $39.07
Median Household Income: $38,398 (2015)
median family Income: $43,289 (2015)
Type of government: Mayor; City Council
Largest Employers: Baystate Medical Center; MassMutual Financial Group; Big Y; Center for Human Development; American Outdoor Brands Corp.
* Latest information available

Sections Technology

The Best Defense

By Sean Hogan

Hogan Technology recently announced it is educating small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) on password-protection policies to help safeguard their businesses from a variety of threats.

Sean Hogan

Sean Hogan

Password management has become increasingly important, with daily attacks from hackers specifically targeting SMBs. For example, some 6 million LinkedIn account passwords were compromised just few years ago, and the list of breaches has grown dramatically since. Anyone who has been using major social-media sites, like LinkedIn, may have received a notification forcing them to reset their passwords. This is the result of colossal breaches in Internet security, and Hogan Technology has been advising businesses on how to protect themselves.

As the Internet continues to expand in complexity, so do its vulnerabilities. In order for business owners to protect their organizations, they need to utilize best practices in password security. Here are some steps that business owners can take immediately.

1. Never use the same password twice. One of the most effective ways to prevent breaches is also the simplest: never use the same password for multiple accounts. Strong, unique passwords, with symbols, numbers, and capital letters are usually far more effective than anything else.

2. Enable two-step authentication and verification. This is one of the other simple ways a business can instantly upgrade the security of its entire network by simply passing a company policy. Two-step password authentication essentially means that, when a user logs into their account, they’ll be required to confirm that log-in attempt by replying to a text message or phone call. This best practice makes it much harder for hackers to impersonate the true account owner because it requires them to have access to multiple accounts before their hacking attempts can be effective.

3. Stay vigilant against phishing. Hackers have long relied on phishing, a common strategy in which a hacker attempts to defraud an online account holder of financial information by posing as a legitimate company. For example, a hacker will gain access to your account information by purchasing your e-mail and password on the black market, and then they will log into your e-mail and send a desperate note to one of your contacts, posing as you, something like, “John! My transmission just blew, and I’m stranded out here. My phone is about to die. Can you send me $2,000 to this account? I’ll pay you back as soon as I get into town.”

Users need to constantly remain vigilant against attacks like this because they are prevalent and have proven effective over the years. While these are a few proactive steps a company can take in the right direction, they are only a mere shadow of what is possible if they work with a true managed IT services provider. Hogan Technology partners with SMBs that need to secure a competitive advantage with advanced technology and want to remain focused on growing their business, instead of keeping up on the latest in online security.

Sean Hogan is president of Easthampton-based Hogan Technology, a business-technology company that specializes in increasing customer profitability and efficiency through the use of technology; (800) 929-5201; teamhogan.com

Health Care Sections

Safety Net

Larry Borysyk takes Lucille Chartier’s blood pressure

Larry Borysyk takes Lucille Chartier’s blood pressure as she exercises in Holyoke Hospital’s cardiac rehabilitation gym.

 

Lucille Chartier had no idea she had heart problems until a day last October when she got out of the shower, began sweating, and felt like she was going to pass out.

“I knew something was really wrong,” said the 68-year-old Chicopee woman, who was diagnosed with a heart attack after an ambulance took her to the hospital.

While there, she was told about a cardiac-rehabilitation program in a gym, but wasn’t given much information, and since she had never exercised on machines, she was hesitant to sign up.

Several months later, she spoke to Larry Borysyk at Holyoke Medical Center (HMC), and after he explained its program in detail and why it was important, Chartier decided to give it a try.

That was two months ago, and today she would advise anyone who has had a cardiac event to take part in cardiac rehabilitation. She enjoys walking on the treadmill as well as the camaraderie between staff and participants, and says it has helped her gain strength and confidence.

Borysyk, cardiac rehabilitation counselor at HMC, said Chartier’s initial reaction was not unusual.

“Cardiac rehabilitation is life-saving, but it can be a scary adjustment for people who have never exercised in a gym, so we try to reduce their mental and physical stress,” he told BusinessWest, adding that individuals need to slowly acclimate to the equipment. Meanwhile, people who exercised on a regular basis before a cardiac event need to relearn what they can do, and how long and hard they can safely push themselves.

Exercise can be problematic because people can become hyper-vigilant after a heart attack and think any symptom is a precursor to another event. But cardiac rehabilitation can help them learn what is normal.

“Each participant is assessed by a nurse while they are exercising to make sure they stay within their limits,” said Kelley Weider, department director of Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation for Berkshire Medical Center, adding that patients are connected to wireless telemetry monitors, and if they experience symptoms during exercise they are worried about, they are immediately evaluated.

Holyoke, Baystate, and Berkshire medical centers all have cardiac-rehab programs, and participants exercise in their gyms two or three times a week for 10 to 12 weeks under close supervision. Their blood pressure, heart rate, and heart rhythm are measured during activity, and routines are tailored to meet individual needs and fitness levels.

Participants must have a doctor’s referral, and although the majority have had a heart attack or stent placement, others have had bypass surgery, a heart-valve replacement, congestive heart failure, a heart replacement, or angina.

Kelly Weider says studies show regular exercise can help decrease the risk of a second cardiac event.

Kelly Weider says studies show regular exercise can help decrease the risk of a second cardiac event.

In addition to monitoring that takes place during each session, participants receive education on topics that include diet, stress reduction, smoking cessation, and other factors that affect heart health, and slowly build strength, get used to exercising, and understand it needs to become part of their lifestyle.

People also learn the importance of genetics and how that factor and their lifestyle have affected their health. “Heart disease does not happen overnight,” Borysyk said.

For this issue, BusinessWest examines the importance of cardiac rehabilitation, how treatment has changed, and how it helps people understand what they do can safely — and when symptoms should not be ignored.

Changes in Care

Borysyk has worked in cardiac rehab since the early ’70s, and has seen changes due to technology and medical advances that allow heart disease to be detected and treated earlier than in the past, which results in better outcomes.

“Coronary-care units were set up in the ’60s, but before that, nurses did everything for patients after a heart attack, including feeding them. They worried about compromising their damaged hearts, and as a result, people ended up as cardiac cripples,” he said, noting that, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, people were kept in the hospital for two weeks after a heart attack, but today they are released after two or three days.

Cardiac procedures and surgeries are not done at Holyoke Medical Center, and in many instances patients who go to their emergency room are transported by ambulance to Baystate Medical Center.

Heidi Szalai, manager of Baystate Medical Center’s cardiac-rehab program, which is the largest in the area, told BusinessWest that, although rehab doesn’t usually start in the hospital, staff members get patients up and moving.

“We want to make sure they’re walking and that it is safe for them to go home,” she said, adding that healing speeds up when they leave the hospital and they are told about programs available to them when they are discharged.

However, cardiac rehab doesn’t begin for a week or two after a person leaves a medical center, especially if they have had surgery, because the heart needs time to recover.

The programs start with individual assessments to determine the best plan of action. In addition to an exercise routine that is created for each participant, they are taught about risk factors that include high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, stress, nutrition, and lack of exercise.

“They are usually on new medications, and we need to make sure they understand them,” Szalai said, explaining that some prescription drugs may slow their heart rates, and their doctors receive periodic reports about their blood pressure and how the heart responds during exercise, which helps them determine how well a medication is working and if adjustments need to be made.

Heidi Szalai

Heidi Szalai said cardiac rehab helps patients know how they should feel when they exercise and when to seek medical help.

Lifestyle changes are also discussed. “Some people have always eaten well and are doing everything they should, but need to learn to control stress and cope with it so it doesn’t affect their heart,” she continued, adding that patients have a clinician trained in mindfulness-based stress management. “We tell people that exercise is a dose of medication and has positive affects on risk factors; it helps lower blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and improves their overall sense of well-being.”

The goal is to get people exercising five days a week, which can make a profound difference because studies show finishing a cardiac-rehab program can lower the likelihood of another event.

Insurance typically covers the cost of the programs, but some people have high co-pays and cannot afford to attend all of the sessions.

When that occurs, staff in cardiac programs do their best in a limited number of sessions. Berkshire Medical Center has a program that pays half of co-pays of $15 or more for qualified individuals, and although it can help, it may not be enough.

“We’ve seen people with co-pays that are $80 a session, so even if they receive financial help, attending 36 sessions may be cost-prohibitive,” Weider said, adding that, in some instances, they have modified the program into six sessions, which is less than ideal, but helps to give a patient security and knowledge about what they can do safely.

“During the intake process, we get a sense of what they’ve done in the past as well as their level of conditioning,” she noted. “About 90% of people haven’t been exercising on a regular basis, but some were running five miles a day.”

Exercise machines are integral to the program and include different types of stationary bicycles, a treadmill, and resistance bands, which are used for strength training.

The final phase of the program is maintenance, and although people can join gyms or exercise on their own, if they still want to be monitored, most hospitals have ongoing exercise programs that cost $40 to $45 per month and are overseen by cardiac rehabilitation staff members who are available to take their blood pressure or put them on a cardiac monitor if they feel it is needed.

Some people like the idea of having that safety net ,and Weider said Berkshire Medical Center’s maintenance program has about 320 participants who want the peace of mind that comes from knowing that, if any concerning symptoms arise, they can be assessed.

“We’ve sent some people to the emergency room, but many times they simply need to be checked out and reassured that they are OK,” she said, noting that a nurse is always available.

Future Outcome

Borysyk says people with cardiac conditions who don’t exercise are at greater risk of not being able to do the things they want as they get older, especially if their diet is poor and they smoke. And although some people avoid cardiac rehab because they want to bury the memory of the event, learning what they can do safely is an excellent way to help ensure their heart health in the future.

“Many studies show that exercise is the biggest modifiable factor to decrease the risk of another heart event,” Weider said, citing one study showing that participants in a cardiac rehab program reduced their risk of another event by 25%.

In addition, it helps participants understand how they should feel when they exercise, what the red flags are, and when they need to call their doctor or go to the emergency room.

“It helps them return to what is important to them in life and gets them into a routine of exercising 150 minutes a week that they can continue when they finish the program,” Szalai said.

It’s definitely an investment of time and money, but one that yields positive results and can lead to a healthier and happier lifestyle.

Briefcase Departments

SC Learning Commons to Be Named for Benefactor

SPRINGFIELD — During his lifetime, Rev. Harold Smith dedicated himself and his many gifts to Springfield College. Mary-Beth Cooper, Springfield College president, announced that, to celebrate his rich legacy, the college will name its newly reconstructed learning commons to honor his memory and the many ways in which he helped Springfield College grow and prosper. Smith passed away March 21, 2017, in New York City, at age 83. “Harold had a passion for Springfield College and for the YMCA,” said Cooper. “His life’s work will live on in this learning commons and in the lives of our students who will study and research there.” Smith was a valued member of the Springfield College board of trustees for more than three decades, and served as chair of the board’s investment committee for 25 of those years, as well as on the executive committee and the committee on business affairs. Under his leadership, and through his investment expertise and strategy, the college’s endowment experienced unprecedented growth through a diverse portfolio. Smith was recognized for his dedication and commitment to serving others in the Springfield College tradition when he was awarded the Springfield College honorary doctor of humanics degree in 1998. He was a member of the college Naismith Giving Society, which recognizes donors who have given more than $1 million during their lifetime. He is enshrined in the YMCA Hall of Fame located on the college campus. The Harold C. Smith Learning Commons will be dedicated when the building is opened later this year to honor the man who studied for the ministry, but went on to become the president and chief investment officer of the YMCA Retirement Fund. Reflecting 21st-century library innovations, the learning commons will become the heart of the college’s academic program, providing facilities where students and faculty can study, research, work in groups, and receive writing and other academic support. Renovations of the college’s 45-year-old library began in August 2016, and the new facility will include a 24-hour reading room, a café, and a technology hub designed to promote collaboration between research and information technology, and will be home to the college’s Academic Success Center. Smith was a dedicated philanthropist and volunteer throughout his lifetime and volunteered for the League of Women Voters, the Interfaith Committee of Trumbull, and the Bridgeport Area Foundation. He was a trustee of the YMCA Retirement Fund, YMCA Greater Bridgeport, and Ursinus College, as well as a board member of the YMCA of Greater New York, Bank Mart, and Y-Mutual Insurance. Born in the Bronx, Smith was an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and held a bachelor’s degree and doctor of divinity degree from Ursinus College, a master of divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary, and an MBA from New York University. He was a chartered financial analyst, a member of the New York Society of Security Analysts, and a member of the American Economics Assoc. He had a 40-year dual career in ministry and investments.

STCC to Offer Summer Classes

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) will offer five-week and 10-week on campus and online summer classes. Session One begins June 5, and Session Two starts July 10. Summer classes an ideal opportunity for area college students to earn college credit between June and August, said STCC Dean of Enrollment Management Matthew Gravel. “The majority of classes available during summer session can be used to fulfill requirements at other colleges and universities,” he added. “Classes fill up very quickly, and we continue to offer classes across the curriculum to meet the demands of STCC students, as well as students from other colleges and universities who are home for the summer.” Academic subject areas include accounting, anthropology, biology, business law, chemistry, criminal justice, economics, electronic systems, English, finance, graphic communication and photography, history, IT, math, marketing, medical assisting, music, office information technologies, philosophy, physics, psychology, sign language, sociology, Spanish, and speech. Class schedules are available at www.stcc.edu/summer. Students can register online, by phone at (413) 755-4321, or in the Registrar’s Office, Garvey Hall South, first floor.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — During his lifetime, Rev. Harold C. Smith, D.Div., dedicated himself and his many gifts to Springfield College. Mary-Beth A. Cooper, Springfield College president, announced today that, to celebrate his rich legacy, the college will name its newly reconstructed learning commons to honor his memory and the many ways in which he helped Springfield College grow and prosper.

Smith passed away March 21, 2017, in New York City, at the age of 83.

“Harold had a passion for Springfield College and for the YMCA,” said Cooper. “His life’s work will live on in this learning commons and in the lives of our students who will study and research there.”

Smith was a valued member of the Springfield College Board of Trustees for more than three decades, and served as chair of the board’s investment committee for 25 of those years, as well as on the executive committee, and the committee on business affairs. Under his leadership, and through his investment expertise and strategy, the college’s endowment experienced unprecedented growth through a diverse portfolio.

Smith was recognized for his dedication and commitment to serving others in the Springfield College tradition when he was awarded the Springfield College Honorary Doctor of Humanics degree in 1998. He was a member of the college Naismith Giving Society, which recognizes donors who have given more than $1 million during their lifetime. He is enshrined in the YMCA Hall of Fame located on the college campus.

The Harold C. Smith Learning Commons will be dedicated when the building is opened later this year to honor the man who studied for the ministry, but went on to become the president and chief investment officer of the YMCA Retirement Fund.

Reflecting 21st century library innovations, the learning commons will become the heart of the college’s academic program, providing beautiful facilities where students and faculty can study, research, work in groups, and receive writing and other academic support.

Renovations of the college’s 45-year-old library began in August 2016, and the new facility will include a 24-hour reading room, a café, a technology hub designed to promote collaboration between research and information technology, and will be home to the college’s Academic Success Center.

Smith was a dedicated philanthropist and volunteer throughout his lifetime and volunteered for the League of Women Voters, the Interfaith Committee of Trumbull, and the Bridgeport Area Foundation. He was a trustee of the YMCA Retirement Fund, YMCA Greater Bridgeport, and Ursinus College; and a board member of the YMCA of Greater New York, Bank Mart, and Y-Mutual Insurance.

Born in the Bronx, Smith was an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, and held a bachelor’s degree and Doctor of Divinity degree from Ursinus College, a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary, and a Master of Business Administration from New York University. He was a Chartered Financial Analyst, a member of the New York Society of Security Analysts and a member of the American Economics Association. Mr. Smith had a 40-year dual career in ministry and investments.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Strengthening its business strategy and development expertise, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) today named Aaron Miller head of Strategy & Corporate Development.

Miller reports to Betsy Ward, MassMutual’s chief financial officer and chief actuary.

In his new role, Miller, who will work closely with MassMutual’s executive leadership team, is responsible for leading the development of the company’s corporate and business strategies, as well as competitive intelligence, helping maximize MassMutual’s long-term performance.

“Aaron’s nearly two decades of experience across many disciplines within the financial services arena will add both breadth and depth to our business strategy and planning thought leadership,” said Ward. “We look forward to Aaron’s business acumen in helping differentiate MassMutual from key competitors through the monitoring of global industries, markets, opportunities and trends – all in support of our purpose of helping people secure their future and protect the ones they love.”

Miller joins MassMutual from Capital One Financial Corporation, where he spent more than six years as managing vice president of Strategy. In this role, he was responsible for supporting the company’s overall corporate development agenda and evaluating potential acquisition targets. Of note, he led Capital One’s February 2012 $9 billion acquisition of ING Direct USA, and the company’s $2.6 billion acquisition of HSBC’s U.S. credit card business in May 2012.

Prior to Capital One, from 2006 through 2010, Miller was a Principal with Boston-based private equity firm Great Hill Partners, where he was responsible for originating and evaluating investment opportunities in the financial services, Internet and business services sectors. He also served on the boards of Ziff Davis Media Inc. (acquired by j2 Global. Inc.), and Central Security Group (acquired by Summit Partners), among others.

Miller began his career in 1999 with McKinsey & Company’s North American financial services practice, eventually becoming a senior consultant. There he helped Global 1000 and earlier stage companies address such issues as strategy, new business development and operations.

Miller received his bachelor’s degree in economics and public policy studies from Duke University, and earned his MBA from The Harvard Business School.

40 Under 40 The Class of 2017

Vice President, Internal Control, PeoplesBank; Age 32

Trisha Leary

Trisha Leary

It’s a challenging, tightly regulated world for banks these days, so it’s hard to overestimate the importance of auditors. But let’s hear Tom Senecal, president and CEO of PeoplesBank, tell it.

“I formerly served as the CFO, so I know how important financial audits and risk-mitigation efforts are to our safety and security,” he noted by way of explaining why Trisha Leary was promoted from Risk Oversight officer to vice president of Internal Control. “Trisha is the person our leadership team turns to for information on federal and state banking regulations, risk management, and related reporting.”

Leary started her career in a different corner of the financial-services world, as an accountant with Wolf & Co., primarily focusing on banking. “That’s how I got into banking,” she said. “I started auditing banks from a public perspective, then came to be the internal auditor here. I focus on policy and procedure, and make sure we’re doing what we say we’re doing.”

In doing so, she gets to interact with every department in the bank. “We’re looking at everything from the teller line to financial statements, making sure everything is in line; we get to see how everything operates, and it’s interesting. I get to work with a bunch of great people.”

Like most PeoplesBank employees, Leary also has one foot firmly planted in community service, volunteering for the United Way Day of Caring — her projects have included revitalizing a rec room at the YMCA of Greater Springfield, restoring and painting fences surrounding Wistariahurst Museum, and landscaping and cleaning up Forest Park Zoo — and serving as treasurer for Girls Inc., a cause especially close to her heart.

“I’m honored to be on the board,” she said of the nonprofit, which provides girls with opportunities to reach their full potential through programs in STEM studies, leadership development, and life skills, among others. “I have two girls myself, and I see the impact this organization has on girls’ lives.”

Leary also volunteers for the bank’s social committee, employee appreciation committee, and holiday committee, but finds it most gratifying to reach out to the community.

“As fun as it is being an auditor, it’s more satisfying when you can go out and help others,” she added. “The bank is very good about allowing opportunities for getting involved; it’s something we pride ourselves on. There’s a lot of satisfaction in that.”

—Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 The Class of 2017

Management Consultant, Jen D. Turner, MBA; Age 39

Jen Turner

Jen Turner

Jen Turner calls herself “a beyond-the-box business-performance advisor,” helping small businesses throughout the Pioneer Valley grow and succeed.

“I like working with smaller companies and helping them through transitions,” she explained, adding that she’s been partnering with business owners for six years. Before that, she held traditional jobs in the sales, finance, retail, medical, and software industries. They provided typical benefits, but not a lot of work/life flexibility or job security.

“In my last full-time salaried position, I could see the writing on the wall,” she said. “The company was not really doing well, and I was laid off.”

She seized the opportunity and struck out on her own. “It was a natural progression for me. I had my MBA, and knew I could apply the same analyzing, optimizing, and collaborative skills I’d honed for 17 years without being tied to a traditional 9-to-5 schedule; I wanted the freedom and flexibility to create my own schedule and release my creative spirit.”

So she did, finding her out-of-the-box niche by splitting her time as a financial analyst with the Delta Group and working with more than 30 area companies in industries like agriculture, restaurants, manufacturing, fitness, advertising, nonprofits, and even her own.

“I just went through rebranding myself,” said Turner, “and I worked really hard to find the right look and feel for what I do. I’ve tried to be fun without losing sight of the hard work, skill, and determination it takes to help businesses grow and thrive.”

She also has a successful track record working with businesses at the brink of failing, helping them make a comeback and thrive. “It’s been really rewarding to do this work,” she said.

And it’s given her the flexibility she needs to not only volunteer in her community, but also find time to stretch creatively. “I wear many hats,” said Turner, who lives with husband Brad, son Gaius, and daughter Althea. “I’m a wife, a mom, a money manager, and an artist who’s discovered life really is about balance.”

Turner also serves as co-chair of the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School Family Assoc., treasurer of the Belchertown Cultural Council, volunteer for Leadership Pioneer Valley, and vice president of the Quabbin Art Assoc., which she founded.

“Everything I do is for my family,” she said, “and I couldn’t do it without their support.”

—Alta Stark

Daily News

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — With the onset of spring breaks, Bradley International Airport (BDL) will experience a 30% increase in passenger volume from now through April 9. Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority, advises that Bradley passengers should be aware and plan accordingly.

“The key during this busy travel week is to give yourself extra time and to be prepared,” said Dillon. “Our team will do everything we can to make your travel through the airport as carefree as possible.”

Passengers traveling domestically are advised to allow themselves at least 90 minutes for check in with their respective airlines and processing through TSA screening. Those traveling internationally should give themselves three hours.

“TSA is fully prepared for the busy travel week,” said William Csontos, TSA’s federal security director for Connecticut. “Our officers are extremely dedicated, efficient, and focused on the security of each passenger traveling though our system.”

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

From left, Kameron Spaulding, Gwen Miller, Colin Toole, and Mayur Desai

From left, Kameron Spaulding, Gwen Miller, Colin Toole, and Mayur Desai say the new, 96-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel will open in May.

The temperature was in the teens and the wind chill factor was frigid on a recent day when town officials arrived at the construction site of the Brushwood Marriott Hotel in Lenox, but Colin Toole and Mayur Desai wanted photos taken outside the entrance to show off the building’s unusual French empire design.

“This is not a prototype of a typical Courtyard Marriott,” Toole explained.

But then again, noted the CEO of Toole Co., which owns and will manage the property, and also built and operates the Hampton Inn and Suites in Lenox, the town is no ordinary place.

“Lenox has a certain cachet in terms of its name; when people think of it, they think about Shakespeare and Co., the Gilded Age mansions, and Tanglewood,” Toole told BusinessWest.

Indeed, those very attractions, combined with bucolic scenery, the town’s identity as a center for health and wellness — it’s home to Canyon Ranch and the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health — and a wide range of culture and recreational opportunities have spawned a number of multi-million-dollar projects in the last year alone.

“A combination of factors makes Lenox attractive,” said Kameron Spaulding, executive director of the Lenox Chamber of Commerce. “You can see great theater in New York City, but you can’t take a hike there and go to the beach in the same day. But you can do those things here, plus visit a spa and listen to the Boston Symphony Orchestra play outdoors without ever leaving town. All these things work together to create a unique experience.”

The largest project in the works is a $60 million expansion and renovation at the former Cranwell Spa & Golf Resort. The Miraval Group, a subsidiary of Hyatt Hotels, purchased the property last fall for $22 million and plans to transform it into a high-end wellness resort. Other major projects taking place include the new Marriott, the relocation of Morrison’s Home Improvement Specialists Inc. from Pittsfield and its adaptive reuse of a blighted building that had been vacant for 10 years, an apartment conversion at the Walker Street Residences by Allegrone, and the construction of its new headquarters and co-working office space using green design and technology in a building on Route 7.

“It’s been a good year for investments, which shows that Lenox is a place where people want to do business,” Spaulding said.

The building was ghostly, but I had a vision of what it could become, and knew the location was great in terms of visibility: 35,000 to 45,000 vehicles drive past it every day.”

Economic development and growth is on an upward trajectory, but Town Manager Christopher Ketchen said the town hasn’t rested on its laurels. In February, officials adopted a policy to determine whether a project is worthy of a TIF, or tax-increment financing, which is used as a subsidy to spur redevelopment; or an STA, which stands for special tax assessment.

“Developers are looking for these, so it was important for us to have objective measures to make decisions,” said Land Use Director and Town Planner Gwen Miller. “Now we have a clear time frame and process for businesses looking for the help.”

Ketchen added that Lenox has a sound fiscal standing and excellent schools, which play into the equation when developers consider a project or a business wants to move. It is one of two towns west of the Connecticut River that has an AAA rating from Standard & Poor; one of its elementary schools earned a Blue Ribbon rating from the U.S. Dept. of Education, and its high school is the only one in the Berkshires that received a Gold Medal Award from U.S. News & World Report.

In addition, its infrastructure improvement budget was $10 million for FY 2016-17, and the town plans to spend another $5 million over the next year.

The population in Lenox is aging, which reflects a trend in other towns in the Berkshires, and the median age of residents is 51. But town officials are taking steps to attract young professionals and families. Last year, they created a first-time-homebuyers program in partnership with four banks that offers up to $10,000 in down payments to qualified applicants. They also changed zoning requirements to make it easier to build new apartments and condominiums or convert older housing stock into appealing residences, as well as adopting a Complete Streets policy that will make the town eligible for state funds to improve connectivity for pedestrians and bicyclists.

For this issue, BusinessWest looks at major projects that are underway and what they will add to help increase the tourist business that is the cornerstone of the town’s economy.

Filling a Need

The Miraval buildout of the Cranwell resort will begin this spring and is expected to take two years to complete. A total of 43 new rooms will be added to the existing 105, along with a new spa, fitness center, new programming, and other wellness features. The existing facilities will be renovated, the property will remain open during construction, and neighboring condominiums will be able to access the golf course and other amenities via a fee-based system.

“Miraval plans to construct several new buildings and an underground tunnel to connect guests from the main campus to the driving range and several other buildings across the street,” Miller said.

Ketchen told BusinessWest that people have been coming to Lenox for generations to find themselves spiritually and improve their lifestyle, and this high-end wellness resort will benefit the town as well as Miraval’s clients, who often fly from New England to their other locations in the Midwest.

The project is expected to create more than 100 new full-time positions and generate an estimated $1.3 million annually in real estate, sales, and lodging taxes, in addition to a one-time, $1.1 million payment for sewer, water, and other utility connection fees.

The new Brushwood by Marriott will also add to the town’s offerings and is expected to open next month. The hotel will have 92 rooms with panoramic views, an indoor pool, a large patio with firepits, a restaurant, and a 12,000-square-foot event space, which is something Lenox hasn’t been able to offer groups in the past.

Planning began in 2013, and construction kicked off last year after a blighted Econolodge building on the site was demolished.

“We focused a great deal of attention on making this property unique. It fills a void in the Berkshires for hospitality,” said Desai, who will serve as general manager and is a partner in Brushwood LLC, which owns the real estate.

The work has been undertaken by local contractors, and although Marriott is a branded property, the Lenox hotel will be managed by its owners.

Another major project was finished last month and opened its doors April 1. Steve Morrison, who owns Morrison’s Home Improvement Specialists in Pittsfield, relocated his company to Lenox after completing a $400,000 gut and renovation of the former Trillium House on Route 7.

He needed room to grow, and the moment he stepped into the 1870 building, he saw its potential in spite of the deterioration that might have scared others away.

“The roof was leaking, there was structural damage, plaster was falling off the walls, and there was mold inside of them; the windows needed replacing, and the chimney had to be rebuilt,” he said. “The building was ghostly, but I had a vision of what it could become, and knew the location was great in terms of visibility: 35,000 to 45,000 vehicles drive past it every day.”

Today, the building is a welcoming place and resembles a new home inside and out. It has become Morrison’s headquarters, but there are areas that show off every product needed in a residential renovation, filled with samples of roofing, windows, tiles, kitchen cabinets, lighting, bathrooms, floor and wall tile, and more.

“It’s a year-round home show,” Morrison said, explaining that manufacturers lease space from him and, in addition to multiple 40-inch screens that show before-and-after photos of remodeling jobs he has done, he finally has a place where customers can “see, feel, and touch products before they buy them.”

Expanding Options

There is a dearth of market-rate apartments in Lenox, but thanks to Allegrone Companies, the number will soon increase. The firm is undertaking a $5 million to $8 million renovation of the 1804 William Walker House that will transform it into eight market-rate, one- and two-bedroom apartments.

The new units will range from 800 to 1,500 square feet and contain dishwashers, security alarms, stainless-steel appliances, and other amenities. The work is expected to be completed this summer, and three of the apartments have already been rented.

“The building is within walking distance to downtown, Shakespeare and Company, and Canyon Ranch,” Miller said, adding that they will help fill a need in the community.

In addition, Allegrone recently completed the renovation and establishment of the new Berkshire Design Center. The project began almost five years ago when the firm purchased the foreclosed and abandoned Edgewood Motel, which was built in 1959.

After a major renovation, Allegrone moved its corporate headquarters from Pittsfield to Lenox into the second floor of the newly built, contemporary, 30,000-square-foot office building on Pittsfield Road last summer.

Large window frames align the inner corridors and outer walls, allowing natural light to radiate through the building, and the first floor contains 16 suites and co-working conference and event space that tenants will share.

Xerox moved in and staged a ribbon-cutting ceremony several weeks ago, and Liberty Mutual has signed a lease agreement and will become the second tenant.

“This renovation was one of only 16 economic-development initiatives across the state during the recession,” Spaulding said, explaining that officials from the town and state Economic Development Incentive Program collaborated with MassDevelopment, which gave Allegrone a multi-million-dollar recovery-zone facility bond to fund the project, then Allegrone worked with local teams of architects, engineers, and field contractors to do the work.

The Zoning Board of Appeals has also approved a special permit to open a center for women with eating disorders at the former Lenox Institute of Water Technologies. Members of the Berg family who established 107 Yokun LLC and own the adjoining Ethelwynde Estate plan to hire a company that will use the building to help women who suffer from anorexia and bulimia. It would house up to 48 residents who would live there for several months while undergoing treatment, and promises to create 25 full-time jobs.

“It dovetails into the broader health and wellness movement stemming from nearby Canyon Ranch and Kripalu, as well as the recreational opportunities here, and is an interesting example of a private adaptive reuse of a building on a historic site that leverages other development in our community,” Miller said, explaining that the town has a ‘great estates’ bylaw intended to promote this type of reuse.

In addition, to encourage companies to move to Lenox or expand, town officials have been focused on a five-year open-space plan that was adopted in 2013 to serve the community as well as the visitor population.

“Open space is a large part of our identity,” Ketchen said, as he spoke about the town’s great-estate legacy and expanses of open space around these historic buildings.

Officials are working with partners to capitalize on the town-owned land at Kennedy Park and a future boardwalk with access to Parson’s Marsh, which is a wetlands area that is home to many birds.

In addition, Berkshire Natural Resource Council, the regional land trust, is working toward a regional trail network with a long section passing through Lenox, and construction is about to begin to improve the town beach on Laurel Lake.

Lifeguard hours will be expanded this summer, the area will become handicapped-accessible, and changes will be made to the beach house that contains bathrooms and changing areas.

Vital Relationships

The fact that Lenox is a small town has helped facilitate development because officials know what properties are available for development as well as their history.

“I’ve spent entire days driving people around to look at sites, and several hours on Sundays,” Spaulding said.

Miller has done the same and will continue to extend that courtesy to people interested in building or moving to the town.

“We know what is permissible,” she said, adding that officials were able to waive the site-planning review for the Morrison Home Improvement renovation. “Our responsiveness and assistance make a marked difference to developers. It’s our goal to help them get to ‘go’ as painlessly and quickly as possible, so we make it easy, which starts by helping them find the right location.”

Ketchen agreed and said the end result is the continued popularity of the town as a destination.

“We bring people here and create experiences,” he said. “We’re also the central hub of Berkshire County, and people come here to stay.”

 

Lenox at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1767
Population: 5,214 (2017)
Area: 21.7 square miles
County: Berkshire
Residential Tax Rate: $12.21
Commercial Tax Rate: $15.06
Median Household Income: $61,457
median Family Income: $82,212
Type of government: Open Town Meeting
Largest employers: Canyon Ranch, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Cranwell Resort and Spa
(Latest information available)

Banking and Financial Services Sections

Avoiding Identity Theft

By Cheryl M Fitzgerald, CPA, MST

 

Identity theft has become an increasing concern for all. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. According to a Jan. 26, 2015, FTC press release, tax-related identity theft was the most common form of reported identity theft in 2014.

Personal information (including Social Security numbers) is stolen by using various methods (including dumpster diving, skimming, and phishing). The people stealing identities have become very adept and strategic in the ways that they are obtaining this information.

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), tax-related identify theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security Number (SSN) to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. Taxpayers are usually unaware of this until they receive a notice from the IRS indicating that multiple returns have been filed using the same SSN. The IRS uses your SSN to make sure your filing is accurate and complete, and that you get any refund you are due.

Cheryl M Fitzgerald

Cheryl M Fitzgerald

Remember to be extremely cautious when you receive unexpected e-mails or phone calls from the IRS. If no written correspondence preceded it, there is reason to be suspicious.”

 

Identify theft can affect how your return is processed. An unexpected notice or letter from the IRS could alert you that someone else is using your SSN; however, the IRS does not start contact with a taxpayer by sending an e-mail, text, or social-media message that asks for personal or financial information.

Some of the things that you can do to in the event that identify theft (not just with the IRS) has occurred are as follows:

• Call your credit-card companies if you believe fraud has occurred;
• Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and get copies of the report;
• Report identify theft to the FTC;
• File a report with your local police department; and
• Contact your financial institutions and close any financial or credit account opened without your permission.

If your SSN is compromised and you know or suspect you are a victim of a tax-related identify theft, the IRS recommends these additional steps:

• Respond immediately to any IRS notice. Call the number provided or, if instructed, go to idverify.irs.gov;
• Complete IRS Form 14039 (identity-theft affidavit) if your e-filed return rejects because of a duplicate filing under your SSN or you are instructed to do so. Use a fillable form at IRS.gov, print, then attach the form to your paper filed return and mail according to the instructions; and
• Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.

According to the IRS, some suggestions that you can do in order to help reduce your risk are as follows:

• Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections, and use strong passwords;
• Learn to recognize and avoid phishing e-mails, threatening calls, and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as your bank, credit-card companies, and even the IRS;
• Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious e-mails; and
• Protect your personal data; do not routinely carry your Social Security card, and make sure your tax records are secure.

These steps should be followed because, if an identity theft does occur, the situation can typically take many months to correct. Some identity-theft victims have experienced a year or more wait before receiving their appropriate refund. The IRS will typically tell taxpayers who inquire about the status of their identity-theft case that cases are resolved within 180 days; however, it has typically taken longer than that time frame.

In conclusion, the single most important takeaway is that the IRS will always send a written correspondence first. Remember to be extremely cautious when you receive unexpected e-mails or phone calls from the IRS. If no written correspondence preceded it, there is reason to be suspicious. With the increased occurrence of identity theft, it is especially important this tax season (and throughout the year) to be diligent with your information and take proper measures to secure it.

Cheryl M Fitzgerald, CPA, MST, is senior manager at Holyoke-based public accounting firm Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.; (413) 322-3500; [email protected]

Opinion

Opinion

By Robin Saunders

Some years ago, I earned a college degree in cybersecurity and healthcare information technology, becoming the first woman in the U.S. with such a degree. This wasn’t an accomplishment I set out to achieve — I just always had a driving interest in technology, so it was the natural thing for me to do.

I’ve always been fascinated by technology and the sciences. It never occurred to me at the time that these fields were considered the domain of males, or that females were hard to find in industries related to technology.

I describe myself as a geek, though stereotypically the word ‘geek’ tends to conjure a male. But I learned early that the description fit me to a T.

My fascination with technology started in my childhood. My father loved electronic gadgets and would arrive home after a long day in his New York office with “something wonderful” that he found to increase his productivity. When he retired his cool gadget, I loved taking it apart and studying it.

It was my dad who took me on my first trip to Radio Shack, which was famous for its electronic kits. I would purchase these kits with money earned from babysitting. By the time I was in college, I was able to build a quadraphonic stereo — making the woofers and tweeters, back when the word ‘tweet’ meant something different.

Technology and technology-centered careers were never mentioned as career choices in the all-girls school I attended. The closest to a technology career was ‘medical technology.’ MD pathologists had been assisted for many years by medical technicians, mostly men, but the field of medical technology was just beginning, and women started to enter the field.

When I enrolled in a master’s program in 1980 and took my first computer programming course, I was one of five women in a 30-student class.

It is no secret that males have filled most of the jobs and careers having to do with technology and its offspring — the new careers emerging in the cyber arena.

The statistics are quite stark when it comes to women in technology and cybersecurity. Today, only 9% of cybersecurity jobs worldwide are filled by women. And jobs overall in the realm of cybersecurity abound, with 2 million such jobs worldwide going unfilled, some 200,000 in the U.S. alone.

If job fillers in the cyber economy were reflective of the gender ratio in the larger population, that would mean 1 million jobs waiting to be filled by women around the globe and 100,000 jobs available right now for women in the U.S.

Today, I’m director of Graduate Programs in Communications and Information Management at Bay Path University, an all-women’s university in its undergraduate programs that serves both men and women in its online graduate programs. And while there are many male students in our graduate programs, there is no question more women are entering this field; from my perspective, it is about time.

In the Knowledge Corridor that runs north-south along the Connecticut River in Connecticut and Massachusetts, the need in the realms of technology and cybersecurity is growing. With global financial-services companies, research universities, and biotech startups, there is ample opportunity for work in this arena.

My experience in technology and in teaching has taught me one important lesson — that women have the ‘right stuff.’ Call it women’s intuition or a sixth sense. In my view, women possess exactly what the field of information security needs. Not only can women match their gender counterparts in mastering technical skills, but some studies have shown that they may be better at the interpersonal and communication abilities that account for the rest of the job.

In a nutshell, women want a stable job, want to do work that they are passionate about, want to be successful in their careers, want to give back to the community, and want to make a lot of money. The emerging field of cybersecurity offers the perfect fit.

Women have been taught from a young age to be aware of their surroundings and to be very security-conscious. I think women intuitively grasp the need for security.

High employer demand, fabulous salaries, great promotion prospects — what’s not to love about cybersecurity?

If information security is a man’s world — as it is so commonly declared — then how do you explain the wonderful women who continue to perform and succeed just as impressively as the next man? And how to explain the increasing number of women earning an undergraduate or graduate degree in cybersecurity and related data and technology programs?

Many of the pioneers in computer science were women. Ada Lovelace was the first computer programmer, Grace Hopper built the first compiler, and a team of six female mathematicians created programs for ENIAC, one of the first fully electronic general-purpose computers. In fact, programming and operating computers was once seen as women’s work.

We have all discovered the great opportunity and connectivity that the Internet has brought into our lives, but it also adds to the complexity of the cyber threat. That threat of security also offers an opportunity to little girls who may have a fascination with all things technological, like me.

Calling all women: the cybersecurity field needs you, and there are a million jobs waiting.

Robin Saunders is director of the MS in Communications and Information Management program at Bay Path University.

Manufacturing Sections

Making a Name for Itself

From left, Frank Mitchell, Chris Brucker, Jack Mitchell, and Mark Mitchell

From left, Frank Mitchell, Chris Brucker, Jack Mitchell, and Mark Mitchell show off one of the company’s custom machines — one that will slice sapphire.

Since it was launched by John Mitchell in 1920, Mitchell Machine has grown and diversified — shifting from producing parts and tools for the Springfield Armory and Indian Motocycle to designing and manufacturing complex machines for the semiconductor industry. But since day one, the company has essentially been doing the same thing — producing solutions for its clients.

 

 

It’s called a ‘sapphire wafer slicer.’

And that’s exactly what the blue-painted piece of machinery is — a device that slices sapphire substrate into razor-thin wafers for use in the production of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and other products.

As they gathered for a photo in front of this piece of equipment, which was due to be shipped out to an unnamed customer within a matter of days, those at Mitchell Machine were careful to position themselves so that they were shielding anything that might be the slightest bit proprietary in nature.

It has been this way — sort of, and in most respects — at this landmark Springfield company since it was started by Jack Mitchell’s grandfather, John Mitchell, in 1920.

Back then, said Jack, one of the third-generation owners (his brother, Frank, is the other), this was mostly a parts manufacturer, supplying several companies but especially two huge customers steeped in history and lore and located just blocks away from the Hancock Street plant — the Springfield Armory and Indian Motocycle.

Chris Brucker

Chris Brucker says Mitchell Machine has a long track record of providing solutions to its clients.

The second generation of ownership — John’s sons, Frank, John, and Richard — led the company through its first evolutionary process, into the tool and die business in the ’50s. Today, the company handles everything from production of special machinery — like the sapphire wafer slicer — to subcontract machining; from design and manufacturing of robotics equipment that can provide companies with cost-effective automation, to machine design and engineering services for companies that would prefer to outsource such important work.

The common denominator when it comes to everything that goes on in (or out of) the plant today, and what transpired decades ago, is the fact that Mitchell has always been in the business of providing solutions to many different kinds of customers.

“When people have problems in manufacturing — when they need to do something faster, they need automation, they need robotics — they require solutions, and we provide them,” he explained, adding that, as Baby Boomers retire and the task of replacing highly skilled workers becomes ever more daunting, manufacturers are increasingly looking at using technology to do (or help do) what people have traditionally done.


Chart of Largest Manufacturers in the region


Mitchell works with clients in a host of business sectors, including automotive, communications, machinery, electronics, plastics, printing, rubber, optics, and semiconductors.

Many of these solutions are one truly one-of-a-kind in nature, meaning the company won’t even make two of them, he went on, adding that such undertakings make the business unique and the work quite intriguing. But it also brings challenges, especially the need to keep a steady flow of projects in the queue.

“We rarely do the same thing twice — there’s not a lot of volume production — and this requires a lot of skill,” he said, adding that individual projects generally take anywhere from five to 18 months or more to complete. “So you need a lot of projects in the pipeline, and you need financial security, because it’s a long time between drinks.”

This need to continually bring in new work led Mitchell to become one of a handful of area companies to take part in Valley Venture Mentors’ first accelerator program for established manufacturers.

Mark Mitchell, Frank’s son, and thus a fourth-generation leader of the company, led Mitchell’s involvement in the intense, three-month accelerator program. He said it was helpful on many levels, but especially with marketing and raising the company’s profile, thus generating new clients.

“There was a lot of insightful reflection on the company, how we produce, and how can market ourselves,” he noted, adding that, while the company made some direct contacts that might lead to additional business, many of the takeaways involved operations and becoming more visible. And one of the first orders of business will be a new and improved website.

For this issue and its focus on manufacturing, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at Mitchell Machine’s long history of providing solutions for customers, and how, as it approaches its centennial, it continues to find new ways to expand an already-impressive portfolio of projects.

Parts of the Whole

Jack Mitchell told BusinessWest that, when his grandfather arrived at his home in Springfield’s Hungry Hill section one afternoon in 1920, he had what amounted to good news and bad news for his wife.

“The good news was that he bought a building and was going to start a business,” he explained. “And the bad news was that he didn’t have his existing job anymore, and he had to rely strictly on himself. And he had six children; needless to say, my grandmother was quite alarmed.”

That job was as a toolmaker with Colt Industries in Hartford, he went on, adding that his grandfather’s story was typical of many machinists working for the Armory and other companies at the zenith of this region’s industrial age; individuals with an entrepreneurial bent who decided to take their assembled skills and go off on their own with a career turn (that’s an industry term) that would bring with it a whole host of risks, sacrifices, and unknowns.

To make ends meet, Mitchell noted, his grandfather would work at shops like Van Norman Machine Tool and Bosch Machine during the day, and work at the company with his own name on it at night, logging 16- to 20-hour days, usually six days a week.

What’s happened since that start, though, is far from typical.

Indeed, the company has, as noted, reached fourth-generation involvement (a rarity in any sector, but especially manufacturing) and continues to find new and different ways to grow, evolve, and, yes, manufacture solutions for clients across a wide range of business sectors.

Relaying some of the company’s rich history in Springfield, Mitchell noted that, during World War II, it made parts, gauges, and other equipment for essentially two clients — the Armory, which, by the war’s height, was employing more than 15,000 people in arms production, and Indian, which by then was producing motorcycles exclusively for the military.

“At that time, we had more than 100 people working in a very small section of our current shop,” he explained. “It was a 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week operation during the war.”

After the war, the company acquired new, larger equipment, and subsequently diversified into the manufacturing of complete, custom machines, and for companies across the country, not simply across town.

Then, as now, it served a host of different sectors, many with a presence in this region, including the paper industry (many communities in the area had plants), tire making (those products were produced in both Chicopee and Springfield), and molded fiber, among others.

“To this day, Michelin is still a customer — we’ve been serving the tire industry since the ’50s,” said Mitchell, adding that many customers in the portfolio have been with the company for decades.

Mark Mitchell

Mark Mitchell says the company’s participation in the manufacturing accelerator has provided new business leads and insight into how to raise Mitchell’s profile in the marketplace.

The company’s next important step in diversification came in 1992 with the establishment of Mitchell Engineering, which took the company into the design-and-build realm when it came to custom machinery and robotics and to a new dimension in providing clients with solutions.

Today, such work represents roughly 60% of the annual revenues, with the rest coming in the form of subcontract machining.

As noted, Mitchell Engineering is in the business of providing solutions to problems, many of them workforce-related, he said, citing, as one example of the work it undertakes, an assignment involving Sanderson MacLeod, the Palmer-based manufacturer of twisted wire brushes.

“There’s an unusual brush that only one person could make,” Mitchell told BusinessWest. “And that individual was retiring. They came to us, and we designed and built a machine that could actually perform the task that this person did.”

Designs on Growth

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of similar stories in the portfolio, he went on, adding that the machine to slice sapphire — which is ideal for use in both LED and non-LED applications due to its high temperature resistance, high strength, and good electrical insulation — certainly falls into this category.

“Sapphire is harder than silicon, so it’s a more difficult thing to do,” Mitchell noted. “This is a prototype machine — nothing like it has ever been built before.”

Many of the products and solutions that roll out the door command similar language, said Chris Brucker, an applications engineer for the company, adding that the solutions are generated through intense collaboration, or interface, with the client concerning the problem and the best means of solving it.

“Our clients will have an application that they’re looking to automate, or generate better quality, less scrap, fewer direct labor hours … all those kinds of things to stay competitive, increase profits, all those good things companies want to do,” he explained. “I go in and talk to them, understand their process from their perspective, find out what they need to do,” he went on, “and then develop concepts for a special piece of machinery or automation.”

As noted earlier, projects of this nature generally take at least six months from start to finish, and many require much more time.

Thus, there is that heavy premium on constantly generating new work for the pipeline, said those we spoke with, adding that, as might be expected, it comes in two forms — additional work for existing clients, and attracting new clients.

And recent efforts have been focused on both, said Jack Mitchell, adding that this is a relationship business, and once one has been established, the goal is to grow it.

He said there are many examples where subcontracted machining has also led to work designing and manufacturing custom equipment or the promise of such work, including one case involving a medical-equipment manufacturer.

“It started with a small, complex part, and moved to a much more complicated assembly of parts, to creating a tool they could use,” he explained, adding that the next step could be work to design a production line for the company.

As for attracting new clients, word of mouth has always been and will always be the best form of marketing, said Mark Mitchell, and the company does take part in several large trade shows each year. Still, there are many who don’t know the Mitchell name and all that it stands for, and this nagging reality was perhaps the primary motivation behind participation in the manufacturing accelerator program, although connecting with new customers directly was also a goal.

“We’ve quoted on a number of projects as a result of the program,” said Mark, adding that the program reaffirmed the notion that original equipment manufacturers, including many in this area, are not fully aware of the resources (such as Mitchell’s expertise) that are available to them.

Slices of History

The small conference room at Mitchell Machine speaks to the company’s long history, and brings the past, present, and future together efficiently.
Indeed, along with a few golf pictures (which reflect a passion for the game shared by several generations of the Mitchell family), the walls feature a few framed replicas of World War II-era posters proudly touting the contributions of defense contractors toward victory in Europe and the Pacific.

“Your Work Means Victory — Build Another One” reads one poster depicting a shipbuilder.

There’s also a 10-pound block of silicon sitting on a base in the middle of the table. It’s there as a nod to the fact that Mitchell has designed and built machinery that will shape that silicon in the production of microchips.

As the company prepares to turn 100, it is still doing what it was doing when John Mitchell came home with that mix of good news and bad news — produce solutions. And along with those, it is making (and has always made) a proud name for itself.

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

Departments People on the Move
 David Griffin Jr.

David Griffin Jr.

The Dowd Insurance Agencies announced that David Griffin Jr. has been promoted to Vice President. Griffin is based out of the Holyoke office and works with the other branches based in Hadley, Southampton, Ludlow, and Indian Orchard. “The Dowd Insurance Agencies is the oldest family-owned agency in Massachusetts,” said David Griffin Sr., “and I am very proud that my son has chosen to continue that legacy of family leadership. We look forward to the future with a strong management team in place. Now a part of that team, Dave earned his place by honing in on his sales and customer-service skills and adding responsibilities that benefit our internal team and our customers.” Griffin began his role as vice president this past December and looks forward to continuing to grow the organization through new-business development, strategic initiatives, operational efficiency, and managing the firm’s use of technology. “Dave has grown considerably in his evolving role here at Dowd,” said John Dowd Jr., president and CEO of the Dowd Insurance Agencies. “While sales is his primary function, his aptitude and enthusiasm for technology has been a welcome skill set for our agency, and he is now in charge of IT here at Dowd. Dave has demonstrated a command of these responsibilities in a relatively short period of time. We decided it was time to make him an officer of the corporation where he can interact regularly with senior management and help manage the overall direction of the agency going forward.” David Griffin Jr. has been a member of the Dowd team since June 2009. He began his career in the insurance industry as a property and casualty underwriter for Liberty Mutual with stops in Schaumburg, Ill. and Charlotte, N.C., before coming back to Western Mass. He is a 2007 graduate of Bentley University in Waltham, where he earned his degree in finance, and he received his designation as a certified insurance counselor in 2014. Currently, Griffin is an active member of the community, serving on the boards of directors for the Holyoke Rotary Club, the Sisters of Providence Health System (foundation board), and Wistariahurst. Additionally, he also supports the United Way of Pioneer Valley as a member of the resource development committee.

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Sarah Knowlton

Sarah Knowlton

Molly Desroches

Molly Desroches

United Personnel announced the recent promotion of two staff members: Sarah Knowlton and Molly Desroches. Knowlton, formerly a junior recruiter and administrative coordinator for the Professional Staffing Division in Springfield, has been promoted to the Light Industrial Staffing Division’s Recruiter position. She has been with United Personnel for two and a half years. In her new role, she will work on the candidate pipeline for some of United Personnel’s largest clients. Knowlton is currently enrolled in the business administration program at Holyoke Community College in pursuit of her associate degree. Desroches, formerly a Light Industrial Staffing senior recruiter, has been promoted to staffing consultant for United Personnel’s Professional Staffing Division. Desroches, hired the same day as Knowlton, will serve as a resource for United Personnel’s clients and candidates, overseeing contract and direct-hire placements. She holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Bryant University. She is captain of a Holyoke recreational soccer team and an ambassador for the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce. Both Knowlton and Desroches serve on United Personnel’s social-media team, leveraging their human-resources knowledge to create content for various social-media platforms. “The United team is proud to see two colleagues earn promotions as part of our ‘promote from within’ policy,” President Tricia Canavan said. “We look forward to the innovation and creativity they will bring to their new roles.”

•••••

 

Meghan Avery

Meghan Avery

Unemployment Tax Control Associates Inc. (UTCA), a national unemployment-insurance service provider based in Springfield with an office in Boston, announced the promotion of Meghan Avery to Director of Operations. Avery draws expertise from her undergraduate studies at Hofstra University and brings nearly a decade of professional experience to UTCA, six of which were gleaned in-house. She joined the team as senior analyst in 2011, quickly advancing to lead analyst and then Client Services manager, before her most current promotion. As director of Operations, she will oversee client services and all aspects of the claims department, management education, and sales functions. She will manage key areas of the operational budget and employee development. Additionally, liaising with the CEO and director of Finance, she will be tasked with deliverables related to the company’s financial objectives, profitability, and alignment of corporate strategic goals. “Meghan’s promotion is certainly well-deserved. In addition to commendable qualifications and experience, she has demonstrated success in-house relative to operational performance,” said Tim Phelan, chief legal counsel and vice president of Client Services. “Drawing on her expertise in the cost-management area of our business, Meghan’s talents have supported the growth of UTCA, furthering the company’s ability to effectively speak to our value proposition. She is a rising star at UTCA and embodies our mission of providing the best service in the industry focusing on the client, first and foremost.”

•••••

Ruby Pontbriand has joined the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley as its Marketing and Communications Director. She brings more than five years of experience, having previously served as a corporate marketing communications specialist at MAPFRE Insurance in Webster. Previous positions include front office manager and sales director at the Hampton Inn in Sturbridge. For two years, she served as a peer advisor at the Worcester State University Academic Success Center. Pontbriand is a 2011 magna cum laude graduate of Worcester State University with a major in communications and a concentration in public communications, with a minor in theatre. Additional staff changes announced by the 1,600-member trade association include the following title changes for current staff: Laura Herring from education coordinator to director of operations, and Kim Harrison from membership and outreach coordinator to membership and meetings coordinator.

•••••

 

David Horgan

David Horgan

David Horgan was recently named Director of Advertising for Pride Markets. His focus has been launching the Pride 100 anniversary celebration, with outreach through television, radio, MassLive, and a newly launched website. His experience includes creating the early Gary Rome and Marcotte Ford TV campaigns, as well as election commercials for more than 30 winners, including U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, and state Sen. James Welch. Previously, Horgan was director of Marketing for 1st Alliance Lending in Hartford. As part of the ongoing Pride Gives Back program, he teaches media and filmmaking to inner-city children at the Springfield Conservatory of the Arts on Wednesdays.

•••••

NetLogix recently welcomed Jenny Aldrich as Business Development Representative. Aldrich brings a background in a variety of technology organizations, ranging from IT network planning, security, and management, as well as SaaS business applications. Leveraging her experience with medical and insurance business systems will be a benefit to NetLogix’s new clients. Over the years, she has seen firsthand where IT networking solutions have provided stability, security, and growth to companies in the legal, medical, insurance, nonprofit, manufacturing, distribution, banking, and engineering fields. “I really enjoy helping companies focus on their ‘top line’ by delivering effective technology solutions,” Aldrich said. “I have worked for large, small, and tech startup companies, and one thing stays consistent: you have to really love your clients’ business as much as they do.” Added Marco Liquori, NetLogix CEO, “I am extremely excited about the opportunities that Jenny can create for NetLogix. The addition of a dedicated resource for new clients is a key to our success.”

Features

The Time Is Now

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After roughly 40 years of being mostly relegated to Springfield’s past, Union Station is set to begin what will certainly be an intriguing new life. As the station sets to open next month, however, questions remain about just how viable it will be as a business and economic driver. The Union Station in Worcester provides some interesting parallels and talking points.

In many ways, the giant clock in the grand concourse at Springfield’s Union Station has served as a symbol, or metaphor, for that landmark and efforts to revitalize it.

Indeed, for the better part of four decades, time essentially stood still — for the clock (its ornate bronze hands never moved during that time) and for the station itself, which sat mostly idle and, like the timepiece, continued to deteriorate inside and out.

Today, though, the 54-inch-wide clock is functional again, having been repaired by a Medfield-based company that specializes in such work and returned to its place at the south end of the concourse. And the station will soon be functional as well; it is on schedule to be open and serving as a transportation hub next month.

And the comparisons continue. The clock required an extensive makeover, including replacement of its inner mechanism and a surface overhaul. The station? Its multi-faceted renovation has taken several years, and the price tag, when all is said and done, will be north of $80 million.

The clock in Union Station’s concourse before restoration

The clock in Union Station’s concourse before restoration

... and after the work was completed

… and after the work was completed

However, it is at this point that the story lines separate. The clock has been repaired, and its future is no longer in doubt.

The same cannot exactly be said of the station, although there is considerable optimism about what comes next, at least among city development leaders.

Train travel is becoming a larger part of the economic-development picture in the Northeast corridor, and Union Station is well-positioned to play an important part in such efforts. Meanwhile, the station will be a hub for inner-city and perhaps intra-city bus travel as well.

But the station has long been touted as a much larger piece of the economic-development puzzle than that of a mere train and bus station. It is being projected as both a catalyst to further development — of both businesses and residential facilities — as well as home to a number of businesses in its nearly 100,000 square feet of available retail space, a key to its ability to function as something approximating a break-even business.

Chris Moskal, president of the Springfield Redevelopment Authority (SRA), told BusinessWest that three vendors have already signed on the dotted line for spaces adjacent to the concourse, and there is considerable interest in some of the available office space above it.

There is more positive news in the form of language within the host-community agreement between MGM and Springfield, said Moskal. It calls for the casino company to pay $7.5 million over the next 15 years toward the costs of operating the station and fitting out space for tenants — an option MGM chose over actually locating at the station itself.

This $500,000 annually should help the facility stem whatever losses it might incur in meeting what is currently projected to be a $750,000 annual operating budget (a number certainly subject to change), with the bulk of that going toward maintenance and security, said Moskal.

But since the restoration of Springfield’s Union Station began, comparisons to the one in Worcester have been inevitable and seemingly constant, and in many ways, this has been unfortunate for the local landmark, because these comparisons serve as a counterweight to the expressed optimism.

That’s because Worcester’s station has mostly been described locally with terms such as ‘under-performing,’ ‘disappointing,’ and ‘unsuccessful.’ And these words are, in fact, accurate, at least when it comes to the real-estate and fiscal performance sides of the equation; the station is expected to run roughly $600,000 in the red this fiscal year, slightly more than the average lately due to some needed maintenance work, and by most accounts, only half its available commercial space is under lease.

They were attracted to that area because of the train station. People can live there, take the train to a job in Wellesley or Newton or Boston; this rail service shortens the distance to those communities.”

But from a bigger-picture perspective, the station (and the vastly improved commuter rail service that has come because of it) are succeeding in their primary role, that of spurring economic development, said Stuart Loosemore, general council and director of Government Affairs and Public Policy for the Greater Worcester Chamber of Commerce.

Elaborating, he spoke of concentric circles and how development, in the form of market-rate housing, a new hotel, additional restaurants, and more have emanated out from the station, if you will, as train runs from Worcester to Boston have increased to more than 20 a day, including the popular, non-stop Heart to Hub trip, which leaves Union Station at 8 a.m.

“And it gets to Boston in an hour or less,” Loosemore explained, adding that commuting by car will likely take half again as long and bring other inconveniences and expenses, including parking. “That makes it much easier to live in Worcester and get to work or school in Boston; it’s bringing that city much closer.”

Whether similar developments will take shape in Springfield remain to be seen, especially since there isn’t a logical destination for riders, as there is in Worcester with Boston. In keeping with the theme of this story, time will tell.

Soon, though, the speculation about this city’s Union Station — again, about 40 years of it — will soon end, and its next life will begin.

In other words, the time is now.

Hour Town

Tom Erb says the assignment to restore the concourse clock at Union Station, as well as others at that facility, was in most ways typical of those taken on by his family business, Electric Time Co. Inc. And its condition when it arrived at the shop was also typical of what the company has witnessed at several old train-station projects in its vast portfolio, including a recent one in Kansas City.

In short, water had leaked onto and into the clock, manufactured by the Springfield-based Standard Electric Time Co., he explained, requiring extensive repair work to its brass and marble components.

“They were very sad-looking,” he said of the group of clocks and especially the concourse timepiece. “A few of them were missing numbers, which we had to recreate using an oxidizing compound to make them look old … they needed quite a bit of work.

“We replaced the mechanism in the main clock, which was in very bad shape,” continued Erb, whose company has worked on many projects in Western Mass., from restoration of the clock on the Springfield Armory Museum to installation of the massive timepiece now gracing the entrance to the Great River Bridge in Westfield. “We reused the existing clock hands and gave it a small control along with a receiver that latches into atomic time, so the clock will always be absolutely perfect, which is important at a train station.”

The concourse clock is one of many examples of blending old with the new at Union Station, said Kevin Kennedy, Springfield’s chief development officer, as he gave a tour of the facility.

Kevin Kennedy

Kevin Kennedy says the renovated Union Station, and especially its grand concourse, will feature an intriguing blend of the old and the modern.

To get his points across, all Kennedy, who has been involved with redevelopment of the station for roughly 30 years now, needed to do was gesture with his arm across the concourse and just beyond. With that sweep, he pointed out the recently installed retail kiosks, the station’s original (and restored) terrazzo floor, modern exit lights juxtaposed against the original archways, original (and restored) sconces in the ceiling, and wi-fi hook-ups.

“This is an historical renovation,” he explained. “What stands out to me are two things — the neatness of that historical renovation, but also the modern codes of today that require these brightly lit exit signs. You have the 21st century coming together with 1926, and it’s pretty cool.”

The old and new will come together in dramatic and artistic fashion within the renovated tunnel linking the station with downtown Springfield, he went on, noting that there, elaborate murals depicting the history of the station and the city will be installed as part of a project being undertaken in conjunction with Springfield Museums.

While these murals will no doubt become a conversation piece and an attraction in and of themselves, those involved with the station project — especially U.S. Rep. Richard Neal — have stressed that $80 million hasn’t been spent in the name of nostalgia or to establish a museum.

Rather, it’s been spent to create a transportation hub — which the station was for decades before the decline of rail travel — as well as a business center and catalyst for further economic development.

There is little doubt that it will become at least the former. Indeed, 14 trains will soon be moving in and out of the station daily as part of expanded service in the northeast corridor, especially between Springfield and New Haven through what’s known as the Connecticut Line. Meanwhile, the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority will make the station its hub, with roughly 700 buses running in and out every day.

Intra-city bus service remains a question mark, however. Negotiations continue with Peter Pan Bus Lines, headquartered just a few hundred feet from the renovated station, about its possible presence at the facility, and there are other intra-city companies that may become tenants as well, said Moskal.

The business and economic-development sides of the equation involve more question marks, however, and the performance of Worcester’s Union Station since it was renovated in the late ’90s creates still more.

Up-to-the-minute News

As he gave BusinessWest a tour of the available commercial spaces at the station, Kennedy pointed to the large windows while listing several reasons why the assembled square footage might be an attractive landing spot. Actually, to the windows and beyond.

The windows themselves provide large amounts of natural light, which is preferred by many types of businesses, especially those in the creative fields, he said. Meanwhile, as one looks out those windows, they can see I-91, Route 291 (and signs for the Turnpike on both of them), and the point where they intersect, which translates into convenience for employees and customers alike.

Outside some windows, people can also see the 377-space parking garage, a critical component of the station project and another important amenity for a business located downtown, and from still others, people can see downtown and the many forms of progress there.

Thus, the windows reveal a lot, said Kennedy, who noted that the various spaces in the station, stretched across three floors, with one offering views of the station concourse itself, are already attracting interest, and should draw more once a few tenants settle there.

“I think people needed to see this building completed before they could really understand what we had here,” he explained. “Now that it is completed, I think people will take notice, and when we get a few tenants in here, word will start to spread.”

The concourse area itself is already filling in nicely, said Moskal, noting that agreements have been reached for three of the small retail spaces along its east side, with a convenience store, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Subway due to move in over the next few months. A fourth is still available, and there has been interest expressed in it.

Meanwhile, the convenience-store developer will also lease two of those aforementioned kiosks in the tunnel, said Moskal, adding that he isn’t sure what will be sold from them, but expects one will likely be dedicated to cell-phone accessories.

Also, a rental car company (the name was not disclosed, but Moskal said it is a major player in that business) has signed on to do business out of the station, with cars to be stored in the parking garage.

As for the office space above the concourse, Moskal said several parties have expressed interest, and he even added the adjective ‘strong’ to describe it.

“We have a number of interested parties, and one of them is very promising,” he said, referring specifically to space on the second floor, which, as noted, has windows with a view of the concourse. “That would be huge for us; this party wouldn’t take all of the second floor, but maybe 70% of it.”

And, like Kennedy, he said signing a tenant or two will likely create some needed momentum. “Once you start to spin that kind of positive news, hopefully, others will take note.”

Overall, the SRA has been “conservative,” a word Moskal used early and often, with regard to projections for tenants and resulting revenues so as not to create unreasonable expectations and disappointment if they are not met. And thus far, those goals are being met or exceeded.

“We set conservative goals — having 30% leased by the second year, and maybe 60% by the third year,” he explained. “And this is a positive for us, because we hope to have more than that under lease.”

The $7.5 million committed by MGM provides a cushion of sorts, especially for the first three years, he said, adding that the hope is that, by year four, that kind of cushion will be less necessary.

On Second Thought

But it is with the bigger-picture perspective that greater optimism likely prevails, and here, Worcester’s station should serve as an inspiration, rather than a cautionary tale, said those we spoke with.

To emphasize this point, Loosemore started with references to what was known as the Osgood-Brady Building, named for the company, which, ironically enough, manufactured railway passenger cars and streetcars there starting in 1914.

Today, it is home to more than 250 students living in more than 80 market-rate apartments carved out of the various spaces. Most of them are there, said Loosemore, specifically for the trains running out of Union Station just a few blocks away.

“They called it ‘purpose-built student housing,’ and I believe this was the first time it was done in Massachusetts,” he explained. “They’re marketing to college students, and part of what attracted them to it is students at the Worcester colleges doing internships in Boston; living next to Union Station, you can get into various areas of Worcester, because you’re right there, but you can also get to access to the train, which will get you to the Boston region and opportunities for jobs, internships, and other expanded learning opportunities.”

A new hotel is also going up in that area, and the developer has stated publicly that commuter rail is a big reason why the project went forward, and in that location. Meanwhile, across the street from the bus depot at the station, a company is building more than 350 units of market-rate housing, Loosemore continued. “They were attracted to that area because of the train station. People can live there, take the train to a job in Wellesley or Newton or Boston; this rail service shortens the distance to those communities.

Indeed, the train station and accompanying commuter rail are creating much stronger connections between New England’s two largest cities, said Loosemore, adding that many are now finding it convenient (and also far more affordable) to live in Worcester and work or go to school in Boston or one of its suburbs.

He added quickly that, while this isn’t the loftiest of goals for the city or its chamber of commerce — both would rather have people living and working in Worcester — such scenarios do bring a host of benefits.

“If I can’t have the jobs, how can I get the workers?” he asked while speaking for the chamber and noting that reliable commuter rail has become at least part of the answer to that question.

And having the workers come back to Worcester at the end of the day has certainly helped prompt growth of the city’s restaurant district, which borders Union Station.

“People come into the station, and they can go around the corner and get dinner or a drink,” he said. “People may work in Boston, but on Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday, they’re in Worcester.”

Loosemore, who has been with the chamber for roughly two years now, and has learned much of the history of Union Station and the area around it rather than experiencing it first-hand, said what’s happened there didn’t take place overnight. It came incrementally, and as commuter rail became better, faster (the Heart to Hub run, for example), and more frequent.

Tim Murray, president of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and former lieutenant governor, expanded on this thought in a recent op-ed in the Worcester Business Journal, in which he drew parallels between progress in that city and the recent success of the region’s pro football franchise.

“The ability to gain the crucial inch that determines victory often comes as the result of hard work, preparation, and never giving up,” he wrote. “These same principles apply to the progress we have made during the past 15 years to expand commuter rail service between Worcester and Boston … hard work, persistence, and preparation has allowed a team of public and private leaders to go from six round trips a day to 20.

“This progress has contributed significantly to the unprecedented private-sector investments in and around Worcester’s Union Station,” he continued. “Developers, property owners, and business owners including the City Square, Theater District, and Gateway Park projects all tout the presence of rail service as a major catalyst for their investments.”

Whether similar developments will come in Springfield remains to be seen, said Loosemore, noting that the City of Homes does not have a logical or potential-laden destination (like Boston) for commuters — yet, anyway.

In time, more routes going north-south and perhaps east-west (many officials are calling for a high-speed Springfield-to-Boston connection) may be added, and Springfield may see some of that growth in concentric circles that Worcester has.

“Having that commuter rail has certainly been a catalyst for development here,” he said in conclusion. “And it may prove to be the same in Springfield.”

Hands Down

Part of the restoration effort involving the clock in the main concourse was refinishing the words spelled out in the middle of the timepiece — ‘Eastern Standard Time.’

Erb told BusinessWest that, decades ago, it would not have been uncommon for train travelers to cross from one time zone into another in the course of their journey, and thus they might need a reminder as to just what the hour was in the City of Homes.

Such long trips, while still doable, are not a big part of the equation in this new era for Union Station. Meanwhile, cell phones automatically adjust for time zones, and that’s how most people note the time these days anyway.

But the clock still serves a very useful function, said Kennedy, adding that, for the first time in four decades, Union Station does as well. It is a transportation hub, as it was when it opened in 1926, but it is also an economic driver, perhaps one to be as successful in that role as Worcester’s.

Time will tell, but for the first time in a long time, the clock is running at Union Station, in every way, shape, and form.

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

DBA Certificates Departments

The following business certificates and trade names were issued or renewed during the months of January and February 2017.

AMHERST

Al Manar Education Consultancies
135 East Hadley Road
Mohamed Ibrahim, Magda Ahmed

KF Web Development
43 Greenwich Road
Fabrice Ketchakeu

BELCHERTOWN

Brain On Tutoring
39 A Maple St.
Amanda Halperin

Green Diamond Systems
125 Blue Meadow Road
Alan Page

HB Hive Co.
641 Daniel Shays Highway
Ross Hartman

Ivy HR
125 Mill Valley Road
Chris Abbuhl

CHICOPEE

Angel Snipe Gaming
70 Post Road
Derek Dobosz

Chicopee St. Patrick’s Parade Committee
62 Davenport St.
Ketherine Sliwa

Couture Event Designs
136 Crestwood St.
Maria Sousa

Pizza Express
557 East St.
Tekin Boluk

Truehart Massage
264 Exchange St.
Rochelle Truehart-Lambert

EAST LONGMEADOW

Avalanche Landscape Design Inc.
40 Crane Ave.
Eric Weichselbaumer

Bodyworks Unlimited Inc.
347 Elm St.
Antonio Bordoni

Fogueria
621 North Main St.
Manual Coelho

Harbourside Wealth Management
96 Shaker Road
Gary LaVallee

Milecast Media
273 Westwood Ave.
Stefany Schaefer

GREENFIELD

Ace of the Trades
43 B Fort Square
Anthony Ellis

Jessica Fiske LMT
239 Main St., Suite 5
Jessica Fiske

Regency Mortgage
21 Mohawk Trail, Suite 306
Lendusa, LLC

RMC Wholesale
21 Mohawk Trail, Suite 306
Lendusa, LLC

HAMPDEN

Green Valley Preschool and Day Care
10 Allen St.
Carmela Fitzpatrick, Traci Croteau

HOLYOKE

Capri Pizza & Restaurant
18-20 Cabot St.
Fiore Santaniello

Divine Beauty Salon
1312 Dwight St.
Angela Burgos

Gods & Legends Apparel
Luis Caraballo
33 Belcher St.

Holyoke Hummus Co.
285 High St.
John Grossman

Joel’s Moving Services
507 Whitney Ave.
Edgar Ramos

R & R Variety
207 ½ Sargeant St.
Rosalie Pratt

Tony’s Auto Sales
800 High St.
Anthony Trabal, Megali Trabal

LUDLOW

Easy Shop Convenience
546 A Center St.
Tahir Humayun

Hairstyles by Helena at Hair West
322 West Ave.
Helena Ferreira

Our Town Variety
259 Fuller St.
Sheetal Patel

Red Caravel Antiques
200 Center St., Suite 8
Elizabeth Teixeira

Tenczar Contractors
58 Wilno Ave.
Andrew Tenczar

NORTHAMPTON

Creative Curations
46 Cross St.
Laura Bergstrom

D.L. Hain
123 Hawley St.
Diane Lanoue

Law Office of Katherine Callaghan
55 Golden Dr.
Katherine Callaghan

Next Step Sales & Marketing Partners
115 Elm St., #1
Gregory Barrett

Notes
48 Main St.
Steven Campbell

Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop
267 Turkey Hill Road
Joy Baglio

Silent Source
58 Nonotuck St.
Harry Ridabock II

PALMER

Anne-Marie Olread Day Spa for Hands and Feet
3051 Pleasant St.
Anne-Marie Olread

Cutting & Styling Mart
1005 Central St.
Robin Dane

DPN Investigative Backgrounds & Security Services
2258 Main St.
Daniel Narreau

Girly’s Grill Inc.
1315 Park St.
Lori Beth Lind

Images Salon
1207 South Main St.
Wendy DeBoise

Northern Construction Service LLC
1516-1520 Park St.
John Rahkonen

Townies
1618 North Main St.
Pamela Kirkland

SOUTHWICK

Industrial Gas Turbine Support
13 Industrial Road
Jeffrey Vangelder

My Time LLC
627 College Highway
Allyson O’Dell

SPRINGFIELD

41st and 3rd
34 Front St.
Justin Oriel

A 2 Z Convenience Store
123 Chestnut St.
Sajid Zaman

Berliner Law
1441 Main St.
L. Jed Berliner

Blanco o Negro Promotion
15 Merida St.
Jesus Fontanez

Blue Lagoon Restaurant
180 State St.
Lewis Boynton

El Mango Market
2881 Main St.
Jorge Colon

Fresh Cut 2
1655 Boston Road
Ernesto Padilla

GRN Consulting
One Monarch Place
Karen Roberts

JDCole-TV, LLC
59 Meredith St.
Jeremy Cole

Kilpatrick Mebane Property Management
65 Westford Ave.
Tony Mebane

Main Food Shop
176 Main St.
Amarilis Perez

Optimal Office Cleaning
26 Lafayette St.
Kimberley Berry

Sonia Noemi Munoz Hope
14 Lombard St.
Yamira Rodriguez

Super Brush, LLC
800 Worcester St.
Donna Roy

WARE

An Honest Handyman
30 Highland St.
Charles Edler

WEST SPRINGFIELD

Eddie Shore Enterprises
1305 Memorial Ave.
Catherine Pokorny

Fuelboys
41 Chapin St.
Rene Thibault

Gilbert’s Handyman Service
65 Paulson Dr.
Norman Gilbert

IHOP
640 Riverdale St.
Deborah Pusen

Lawn Pro
161 Great Plains Road
William Paquette

Mattress Firm
935 Riverdale St.
Kindel Elam

Rafa Transportation LLC
203 Circuit Ave.
Rafael Mkanga

Stars Delivery
41 Irving St.
Gheorghe Rahubenco

WILBRAHAM

Core and More LLC
2141 F Boston Road
Arice Mackintosh

Homebuyers Inspection Service
17 Shady Lane
David Falvey

Jahn Building & Remodeling
376 Mountain Road
William Jahn

Michael R. Alexander, Electrician
84 Manchonis St.
Michael Alexander

NovaCare Rehabilitation
2377 Boston Road
David Chernow, Robert Ortenzio, Michael Tarvin, Scott Romberger

Ricciardi Construction Co.
840 Main St.
Gary Ricciardi

Wilbraham Tire and Auto Service Inc.
2694 Boston Road
Kurt Zimmerman, Peter Kearing

Daily News

WESTFIELD — NetLogix recently welcomed Jenny Aldrich as business development representative. Aldrich brings a background in a variety of technology organizations, ranging from IT network planning, security, and management, as well as SaaS business applications.

Leveraging her experience with medical and insurance business systems will be a benefit to NetLogix’s new clients. Over the years, she has seen firsthand where IT networking solutions have provided stability, security, and growth to companies in the legal, medical, insurance, nonprofit, manufacturing, distribution, banking, and engineering fields.

“I really enjoy helping companies focus on their ‘top line’ by delivering effective technology solutions,” Aldrich said. “I have worked for large, small, and tech startup companies, and one thing stays consistent: you have to really love your clients’ business as much as they do.”

Added Marco Liquori, NetLogix CEO, “I am extremely excited about the opportunities that Jenny can create for NetLogix. The addition of a dedicated resource for new clients is a key to our success.”

Banking and Financial Services Sections

Business at Hand

Steve Lowell

Steve Lowell says a surge in usage of Monson Savings Bank’s mobile offerings has coincided with a downturn in branch traffic.

You never know what will persuade any given customer to switch banks, Karen Buell says.

Buell, vice president of Customer Technologies at PeoplesBank, recalled a couple of non-customers who recently visited a branch to cash checks. When they saw the bank had recently introduced Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay for its customers, they returned — to open accounts.

“Wow. What a win,” said Buell, who has been tracking the usage rate of the bank’s electronic and mobile banking offerings for years. PeoplesBank launched its first mobile app for iPhones in 2009, one of the first 50 financial institutions in the U.S. to do so. Today, 34% of all the institution’s checking-account holders use mobile services. But it was still pleasantly surprising to see those services create a customer on the spot.

Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise, particularly among the younger crowd. A study last year by the Federal Reserve reported that 67% of Millennials now use mobile banking, compared to 18% of consumers age 60 or over. This usage gap is projected to widen further as the youngest of the 85 million-strong Millennial generation enters the workforce.

Steve Lowell, president of Monson Savings Bank (MSB), says about half of that institution’s customers bank online, and of this group, more than half, about 60%, use the mobile app — up from 31% three years ago and 8% in 2011, the year the app launched.

Customers can perform a number of banking tasks on their mobile devices, Lowell said, including transferring funds between accounts, making loan and bill payments, taking pictures of their checks to make deposits online, and sending money to other banks through an app called Popmoney.

He said adoption has been strong by customers of all ages, but especially Millennials, who have come to expect robust online and mobile services in many areas of life.

“If you don’t have mobile banking, you won’t get the Millennial generation. That said, we have people in their 80s using their smartphones to do their banking. It’s definitely skewed toward the younger generation, but we see it across all age groups,” he said, noting that he uses the function himself. “It’s so easy to use.”

Buell reports similar momentum driven by younger customers at PeoplesBank, noting that 51% of Millennial customers use mobile check deposit, a service the bank began offering in 2014, compared to 24% of the bank’s Gen-X customers and 16% of Baby Boomers. Given those demographics, it seems like demand for mobile banking will only rise.

“Our customer base has enjoyed this for a while, and we’ve had great adoption of it,” Buell said. Specifically, mobile check deposit has grown 140% in overall usage between 2014 and 2016, and total checks deposited rose by 133%. At the same time, total dollars deposited through mobile check deposit went up 202%, partly because the bank increased the dollar-amount limits for that service for many customers based on their balances and relationship with the bank.

Karen Buell

Karen Buell, seen here in PeoplesBank’s Customer Innovation Lab, says the bank has made just about all its e-banking activities accessible on mobile devices, with more to come.

“We’re constantly looking at data to determine how to serve customers better,” said Buell, who also oversees PeoplesBank’s Customer Innovation Lab, which, as the name suggests, develops new products for retail and business customers. “We saw that some mobile-deposit users were still coming to the branch for larger items, so we made some changes and gave them significantly higher limits to accommodate their needs.”

Making Change

Industry analysts have long noted that adoption of mobile banking followed a path similar to online banking, with some customers enthusiastic early adopters, and others initially reluctant for a variety of reasons, often having to do with security, or perceptions thereof.

“I think that’s absolutely the case,” Lowell said. “You still have to have that discussion with people who are concerned about security. But once we run through the precautions we have, and the logins they have to go through, they get pretty comfortable with it. And once they’ve tried it for a while, they get hooked on it. It’s such a convenience; it makes life easier. Of course, people have the right to be concerned about cybersecurity. But the more they learn about it, the less of a concern it is.”

Surging use of mobile banking has, naturally, raised questions about the future of physical branches — or, at least, their rate of expansion — but these are the same questions that arose when desktop online banking was introduced, and institutions have long asserted there will always be a need for brick-and-mortar offices. But Lowell says it’s something to keep an eye on.

“It’s a really important consideration. From 2013 to 2015, we didn’t see a significant decline in branch traffic — maybe 5% year over year — but from 2015 to 2016, we saw a 19% decrease in branch traffic; we went from roughly 555,000 transactions at our branches in 2015 to 452,000 transactions in 2016,” he explained, noting that, at the same time, the overall customer base has increased.

“We definitely see a transition — not just in mobile banking, but in electronic banking in general — and we’ve adjusted our staffing levels as a result of that, and we’re looking at adjusting our hours. We may not need to be open as many hours as we used to be. It’s something we’re watching really closely.”

Industry analysis is mixed on this topic. The Federal Reserve study indicated that even regular users of mobile banking still want to use other banking channels, from visiting an ATM or branch to withdraw cash to speaking with a customer-service representative or loan officer.

Specifically, survey respondents were asked about their use of five distinct banking channels. In the previous 12 months, 83% of smartphone owners with bank accounts visited a branch, 82% used an ATM, 82% used online banking, 53% used mobile banking, and 29% used telephone banking.

But electronic channels have had an impact on branch growth across the U.S. More than 1,600 branches shut down during 2015, the last year for which full figures are available, and several large, national institutions continued to shed offices in 2016.

The branches that remain boast fewer staff as well, from an average of 13 full-time employees per branch in 2004 to fewer than six last year. A recent study by Citi, “Digital Disruption,” predicts that new technologies could cause up to 30% of branch positions to disappear by 2025.

“People find it more convenient to do their banking from home,” Lowell said. “Our strategy is to do whatever is easy for them — they’re the customer, and we want to develop our relationship with them and make things as easy as possible.”

More to Come

Still, despite the concerns, mobile technology has stirred plenty of excitement in the industry. Lowell is enthusiastic about some advances just around the corner for MSB customers, including CardValet, technology that allows users to turn a debit card on and off with their phones, rendering it useless if stolen, and set custom-designed alerts for things like low balances and cleared checks, instantly transferring money between accounts to protect against overdraws. Another upcoming function is the ability to pay bills by taking photos of the invoice and the check.

“At this point, we’ve really put most of what you can do from your desktop onto your phone,” Buell said, noting that 60% of all electronic-banking logins at PeoplesBank are now made from mobile devices. Last fall, the bank launched fingerprint authentication, which allows users to log in without needing a username or password. The bank is also looking to introduce technology that uses the GPS function on smartphones to shut down a debit card when it’s not in the vicinity of the phone, to combat use of stolen cards.

“We want to be first to market with these things for our customers,” she told BusinessWest. “We’re really committed to being early adopters of technology, so they can get all the functionality of of a national bank, but the personal customer experience of a local bank.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Autos Sections

A High-revving Engine

Carla Cosenzi

Carla Cosenzi says sales have been on the rise for several years at TommyCar Auto Group, and she expects this trend to continue at its dealerships.

Initial national projections for 2017 called for the recent rise in auto sales to level off and then perhaps slow down. But those forecasts have been adjusted recently. Indeed, the experts say a host of favorable factors, from low gas prices to a stable economy to the advanced age of many cars on the road, will continue to fuel increases in sales volume.

John Kupec III has been in the automobile-sales industry for 40 years. But he has never seen trade-ins with as many miles as the ones being brought to Gale Toyota in Enfield today.

“We’re seeing cars come in with more than 250,000 miles,” the general sales manager told BusinessWest.

Indeed, a poll conducted last month by market research company IHS Markit shows the average age of light vehicles on the road is 11.5 years, and the trend Kupec observed is mirrored at other dealerships.

“This week alone, I saw trade-ins with 160,000 miles, 180,000 miles, and 240,000 miles — vehicles last longer than they used to, but people have taken it to the extreme,” said John Lewis, general manager at Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram and Bertera Fiat and Collision Center in West Springfield, as he spoke about reasons that led so many people to keep their vehicles for a decade or more.

John Kupec

John Kupec is optimistic about the year ahead, and says Gale Toyota of Enfield hopes to increase sales by 10% to 15%.

The practice began in 2008 when the economy crashed. Consumer confidence plummeted, 401(k) plans lost their value, and people worried about job security and began to realize they could drive their vehicles much longer than they had believed possible without incurring a lot of repairs.

“Today alone, we took in a 2001 with 160,000 miles and a 2005 with 155,000 miles,” said Craig Dodenstein, sales manager for Toyota of Greenfield, who noted that people usually upgrade to a new vehicle when the cost of repairs becomes prohibitive.

Sales began to rise a few years ago in line with a renewed confidence in the economy that has slowly taken root. But last fall, the National Automobile Dealers Assoc. predicted 2017 would be the year in which sales would reach their peak and begin to slow down. That projection was changed, however; now, sales of new vehicles in the U.S. are expected to remain above 17 million for the third straight year in a row, and even rise slightly toward the second half of the year.


Chart of area Auto Dealers


Aging vehicles still on the road have resulted in pent-up demand, and that factor, coupled with new models, aggressive manufacturer incentives, low interest rates, reasonable gas prices, and an upswing in the economy, are fueling optimism at local dealerships for the coming year.

“Last month, our sales were up 10% over January of last year, and we expect a 20% increase in 2017,” Lewis said, attributing the number not only to the company’s reputation and the service it offers, but the fact that Subaru sales have climbed and a new $5 million Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership is under construction, which hindered sales last year when they started working from trailers.

Fathers & Sons in West Springfield also has a new dealership, an $18 million facility that is home to Audi and Volkswagen franchises.

“We want to grow, plan to grow, and have the tools in our arsenal to do it,” said Sales Manager Ethan Prentiss. “In December, Volkswagen had the best month in company history, and this year we expect a 10% to 12% increase in Volkswagen and Audi sales, and an 8% to 10% increase in Volvo sales,” he said, referring to the company’s other dealership on Memorial Avenue, which houses the largest dedicated Volvo dealership in the country in terms of square footage.

Ethan Prentiss

Ethan Prentiss says the demand for SUVs and crossovers such as the new Volkswagen Touareg continue to rise at Fathers & Sons Volkswagen.

Incentives are also boosting sales, and Kupec said Toyota’s are higher than they have been in decades. “The manufacturer is offering 0% interest on some models, which they have never done before; hefty rebates of $2,000 to $3,000; and bonus cash on leases,” he said. “We’re off to a great start and hope to have a 10 to 15% increase this year in sales.”

Bill Peffer concurred. “It’s a very exciting industry to be in, and our outlook for 2017 is very, very positive,” said the president and chief operating officer of Balise Motor Sales, which has 24 stores in three states. “The market is very strong, and any volatility has been offset by manufacturer incentives. There are tons of new choices for customers — it’s a very good time to buy a car, truck, or SUV.”

For this issue and its focus on auto sales, BusinessWest looks at the current landscape within the industry and what the road ahead might bring.

Getting into High Gear

Last June, Volkswagen agreed to buy back its 2.0L diesel vehicles after a lawsuit that proved it had used emissions-system-defeating software. The VW Group also agreed to pay owners $5,100 to $10,000 in additional compensation on top of a fix or buyback of their car.

The negative press that ensued made sales challenging for a period of time, but buybacks began last October and accounted for a quarter of the Volkswagen sales at Fathers & Sons in December.

“These people would normally not be in the market for a new car, and the projection is that we will be able to retain 25% of them; many of our customers love the way their Volkswagens drive and handle,” Prentiss said, explaining that this situation, coupled with the new dealership and a lineup of exciting new products, is not the only reason for the projected increase in sales.

“We are now a negotiation-free dealership, which is what customers want,” he continued. “Buying a vehicle here has become all about the experience. Our salespeople are non-commissioned, and customers can find what they are looking for and complete the purchase within two hours.

“We give them our best price up front and make it fun to buy a car,” he continued, adding that Volvo sales are also up, as the manufacturer broke records last year due to the launch of a new image and the release of new products.

Toyota of Greenfield is another dealership that has undergone change. It moved into a new, $7 million dealership last winter and held a grand opening last May, so 2016 was a year of transition as they were able to move out of the trailers they worked in during 2015 while construction was underway.

“We’re looking for a 5% to 10% increase in sales this year, and if January was any indication, we are headed in the right direction,” said Dodenstein, adding that January sales had almost tripled over last year’s numbers by the third week of the month.

Although the new dealership certainly makes a difference, manufacturer incentives and new products add to the enticements. The new electric Prius Prime is a leader in its class; it gets 133 miles per gallon, beat a preliminary 22-mile electric volt range estimate with 25 miles, and gets 54 mpg in hybrid mode.

Meanwhile, Carla Cosenzi said last year was a great one for TommyCar Auto Group, which includes Hyundai, Nissan, Buick, GMC, and Volkswagen franchises. Some stores did especially well, including Hyundai, which experienced strong demand for entry-level vehicles.

“Hyundai gives customers a lot of value for their dollar, including technology, safety, and the aggressive pricing people are looking for,” Cosenzi explained, noting that consumers are excited about the fact that new technology is standard in many brands of entry-level models and ranges from adaptive cruise control to lane assist, collision warning, and backup cameras.

TommyCar is expecting another excellent year, and the sales of the new Volkswagen Golf All Trac station wagon, which has all-wheel drive, accelerated right after it was released. In addition, SUVs and crossovers are becoming increasingly popular, such as the 2017 seven- passenger Nissan Rogue and Volkswagen Tiguan.

“People want the space, comfort, and luxury they provide. They are more expensive than compact cars, but with interest rates and gas at all-time lows. they’re affordable,” Cosenzi noted.

Other local dealers agree that the demand for trucks, crossover vehicles, and SUVs is growing. They point to the fact that unemployment rates are low, people use trucks to do business, and buyers of all ages want to be able to travel in the winter.

“The weather in New England is unpredictable, and people want mobility whether they are driving to the ski slope or have the kids in their vehicle during a snowstorm,” Peffer said, adding that today’s crossovers and SUVs offer that versatility.

He noted the trend has changed over the past few decades. “Station wagons were popular from the ’40s through the ’70s. But when Chrysler came out with a minivan in the ’80s, the evolution of SUVs began, and so did the way people chose to be mobile,” he told BusinessWest, noting that crossovers and SUVs are affordable, offer more utility than mid-sized cars, and get good gas mileage.

Prentiss said Fathers & Sons sells seven-seat vehicles as quickly as they get them, and Audi’s Q7 and Volvo’s XC90 SUV models are popular because they offer utility plus plenty of cargo space. In addition, Volkswagen’s Tiguan and Golf All Trac have made the brand competitive with Honda and Toyota.

Changing Landscape

Local dealers say leasing has increased and accounts for a good portion of their new-car transactions.

“Leasing allows people to move into cars with low payments without the hassle of long-term maintenance; they can lease them to drive what they want and turn in the car before the warranty is up, as opposed to incurring costs over a six-year loan period,” said Peffer, noting that, a decade or two ago, leasing was reserved for commercial buyers, but today it has gone mainstream, and a third or more of Balise’s new-vehicle sales are leases.

Leasing is also popular at Bertera and accounts for 38% of its new-car business. “Technology is moving so fast, and people want the latest advances. Plus, a segment of the population is always going to have a payment, and they can get a brand-new car every two to three years with a lease,” Lewis said.

He explained that the average payment on a purchased $40,000 vehicle is $500 a month for six years, but the same vehicle can be leased for $300 to $350 a month with very little money down, which makes it attractive.

Kupec noted that the appeal extends to different age and economic groups, especially since people who do a lot of driving can build additional miles into a lease.

“People are more receptive to leasing than ever before,” he said, adding that 40% of the store’s new-car transactions are leases.

Prentiss told BusinessWest that a large portion of Millennials would rather lease than buy a new vehicle. “It has to do with their psychology; they think a three-year lease is long enough.”

The market for electric vehicles is also growing. Cosenzi said the Hyundai Ioniq, which is scheduled to come out in the next month, will have a battery-only model with an electric driving range of 124 miles and an EPA rating of 136 miles per gallon.

Positive Signs

From a big-picture, national-economy perspective, the road ahead is certainly marked by unpredictability and guarded optimism.

In the auto industry, through, there would appear to be fewer potential bumps in that road and apparently smooth riding. As noted by all those we spoke with, a number of factors are contributing to greater confidence on the part of consumers, and this is translating into greater activity at area dealerships.

As they say in this business, there is plenty of tread left on those tires.

Company Notebook Departments

News and notes about area businesses February 6, 2017

Bay Path Launches Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling

LONGMEADOW — The need for genetic counselors keeps growing; there are just 4,000 certified genetic counselors in the country today, or one for every 80,000 Americans. To respond to this need, Bay Path University has launched a new master of science program in genetic counseling, naming Nancy Steinberg Warren program director. “I am excited to help launch Bay Path’s genetic counseling graduate program,” Warren said. “By taking advantage of current instructional technology through hybrid course delivery, students from varied backgrounds will have maximum accessibility and flexibility to become genetic counselors in 21 months. Graduates will be poised to fill future clinical, research, and laboratory-based roles in this growing field.” The program is a hybrid of on-ground and online learning that will prepare graduates for careers in the burgeoning field of genetic counseling. As a profession, genetic counseling is the process of helping people understand and adapt to the medical, psychological, and familial implications of genetic contributions to disease. The program will accommodate students in the university’s East Longmeadow graduate health science facility, the Philip H. Ryan Health Science Center. Online courses and hands-on field-work experience in nearby genomic laboratories will further prepare students for the growing list of jobs available in the industry. Warren comes to Bay Path with more than 30 years of experience in genetic counseling. Her primary expertise has been in education and training of students, healthcare professionals, and the public. She developed and directed the genetic-counseling graduate program at the University of Cincinnati for two decades, and she was interim director of the Long Island University Genetic Counseling Program in 2013. She has held many leadership roles in the field, including serving on the board of the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) and the American Board of Genetic Counseling. Warren is credited with developing a web-based cultural and linguistic competence toolkit for the genetic-counseling profession and an online case-module series approved for continuing education, the Genetic Counseling Cultural Competence Toolkit, available at geneticcounselingtookit.com. In 2013, she was further recognized as a thought leader in the field as the first recipient of the NSGC Cultural Competency Award. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and a master’s degree in human genetics from Sarah Lawrence College.

Square One Awarded Mutual Impact Grant by MassMutual

SPRINGFIELD — Square One has been awarded a $100,000 grant by MassMutual through the company’s Mutual Impact community-investment program. Mutual Impact is funded by MassMutual employees through the company’s annual employee-giving program and matched by the MassMutual Foundation, a dedicated corporate foundation established by MassMutual. This is the second year that Square One has received a Mutual Impact grant. “We are so incredibly grateful to the MassMutual team for their belief in our mission and long-standing, generous support for our work,” said Kristine Allard, chief development & communications officer for Square One. “The funds we receive through this grant will support over 1,000 children and families who rely on Square One for innovative literacy programming.” The Mutual Impact program is completely driven by MassMutual employees. Employees choose cause areas and nonprofit organizations to receive funding, make donations which are matched dollar-for-dollar by the MassMutual Foundation to fund grants, and volunteer in support of the organizations they select. Selected nonprofits have demonstrated excellence in their organization, volunteer opportunities, and community impact. “Corporate responsibility and community involvement are part of our DNA, and we take great pride in helping people in the communities where we live and work secure a better future,” said Dennis Duquette, head of Community Responsibility with MassMutual and president of the MassMutual Foundation board of directors. “Square One tirelessly devotes time and energy in support of families in our local community, and we are pleased to support them through the Mutual Impact program.” Mutual Impact grants were awarded to 21 nonprofit organizations for programs that fit within specific cause areas, including early-grade reading proficiency, food security, violence prevention, family economic self-sufficiency, returning veterans, successful advancement in school, child hunger, and education.

Comcast Donates Computers to CHD Residential Program

SPRINGFIELD — The Center for Human Development (CHD) announced that Comcast has made a donation of 25 Dell Latitude laptop computers with an estimated value of $5,000 to its Caring Together residential programs. “Comcast is committed to digital literacy,” said Dan Glanville, vice president of Government and Regulatory Affairs for Comcast’s Western New England Region, which includes Western Mass. “We want the next generation of young people to be literate, use computers, and understand the resource that computers can be in their lives. Since CHD Caring Together Residential Programs focus on improving the lives of some of our community’s most vulnerable young people, we hope that these laptops can help make a crucial difference in their lives today and for their future. It is truly inspiring to learn of some of the successful stories of these youth, especially considering the challenges they have faced in their life’s journey.” The laptops will be distributed among the eight CHD Caring Together residential treatment group home locations in Western Mass. Caring Together serves youth who struggle with issues related to trauma, abuse, depression, self-harm, and substance use, among others. CHD’s on-site teams provide the youth with integrated mental-health, occupational-therapy, and nursing services, combined with direct-care staff members who are specially trained and included in the treatment plan. Referrals to all Caring Together residential treatment group homes are made through the state Department of Children and Families or Department of Mental Health. “Just about everyone these days has a phone, but the young people we serve through Caring Together do not typically come from homes where computers were either available or seen as a learning resource,” said Kimberley Lee, vice president, Office of Advancement at CHD. “The youth we serve are at transition age and may soon be living on their own, so helping them develop independent living skills is truly critical. Comcast understands the breadth and scope of CHD’s work, and their people determined that CHD Caring Together would be a prime and relevant partner to receive these donated laptops. We could not be more excited.” According to Lee, having computers on site at Caring Together programs will provide great tools to help the residents get organized with homework and research projects at school, access learning resources such as Kahn Academy, improve financial literacy and money-management skills, apply for employment, register for SATs and scholarships, complete applications for higher education, and more. “It’s important to understand that state contracts and federal funds that help pay operating expenses for Caring Together are highly prescriptive and cannot be used for things like computers,” said Lee. “This generous donation by Comcast will help CHD made a crucial difference in the lives of youth who can benefit greatly from the resources available through digital literacy.”

NetLogix Scores 99.4% Customer-satisfaction Rating for 2016

WESTFIELD — NetLogix engaged a third-party monitoring system, SmileBack, in 2016 that allows customers to rate their satisfaction with each service event. In 2016, NetLogix received an extremely favorable customer satisfaction rating of 99.4%. This is an aggregate rating over thousands of service events from clients. “We are honored that our clients are happy with the services we provide,” said Marco Liquori, CEO of NetLogix. “We continue to listen to our clients to understand and deliver the best customer experience and IT services in the region.” NetLogix posts on its website the rolling, 90-day customer-satisfaction (CSAT) scores. SmileBack also recognized NetLogix in its Dec. 21, 2016 blog as being a standout with the highest net CSAT score achieved in 2016. NetLogix is one of thousands of service providers that use the service. Headquartered in Westfield, NetLogix is a network-management, cloud, and systems technology integrator providing end-to-end solutions that ensure business integrity for small, medium, and enterprise-level clients.

Berkshire Bank Receives Three Davey Awards

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank announced it has received three Davey Awards for advertising design. The bank received silver awards for “2015 Berkshire Hills Bancorp,” an annual report; “Firestone Financial, a Berkshire Bank Company,” a brochure; and “What’s Your Game Plan?” direct sales support collateral. The Davey Awards honor the best creative products in design, web, video, mobile, advertising, and social media from small agencies all over the world. Endorsed and judged by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts, the Davey is an invitation-only body consisting of top-tier professionals from a host of acclaimed media, advertising, and marketing firms. For more information on the Davey Awards, or to read the full listing of all 2016 winners, visit www.daveyawards.com.

Valley Blue Sox Announce 2017 Schedule

SPRINGFIELD — The Valley Blue Sox recently announced their 2017 schedule. As was the case in 2016, the Sox will play a 44-game slate, with their home opener set for Thursday, June 8 against the Winnipesaukee Muskrats at 6:35 p.m. at MacKenzie Stadium in Holyoke. The Blue Sox have 10 home games slated for the month of June and 12 scheduled for July. The full schedule is available at www.valleybluesox.com. “The biggest and most important thing is that all but three home games this season will be played on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday,” said Blue Sox President Clark Eckhoff. “That maximizes the accessibility for fans — they won’t have to worry as much about school nights, getting to work the next day, and the like. They can come out and do what they’re supposed to do at a baseball game — and that’s have fun with their families.” The Blue Sox will kick off 2017 on the road on Tuesday, June 6 versus North Adams. It’s the first time the Blue Sox have opened on the road in four years. “You know the home opener is coming no matter what — but it’s always nice to have those few extra days to get things ready the way you want them to be,” said Blue Sox General Manager Hunter Golden. “For the fans, the slightly later start date will just mean a better experience right out of the gate.” The Blue Sox promotional schedule will also be released in the coming months, Eckhoff said. “We’ve got some really exciting things on tap. Some staples like Star Wars night and Friday night fireworks will be back — and we’ve got about five new promotions that we think the fans will get really excited about.” Individual game tickets will go on sale starting March 1 and will cost $7 for adults and $5 for kids and seniors. Season tickets, flex packs, and group tickets are already on sale, and can be purchased either online at www.valleybluesox.com or by calling the Blue Sox ticket office at (413) 533-1100.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Behavioral Health Network Inc. (BHN) has been awarded a $100,000 Mutual Impact Grant by MassMutual through the company’s Mutual Impact community-investment program. BHN will use this grant to bring the Elizabeth Freeman Center’s Money School program model to Springfield.

These Mutual Impact funds will offer Money School to survivors of domestic or sexual violence who are also in recovery from addiction. BHN will provide participants with the skills and supports necessary to move out of poverty. Participants will be given individually tailored financial and career mentoring as well as intensive advocacy and support for their addiction recovery and healing in the aftermath of domestic or sexual violence.

One in four women report experiencing domestic violence. In addition to physical abuse, domestic-violence survivors also experience financial duress, and almost half of domestic violence victims struggle with substance-use disorder.

Mutual Impact is funded by the MassMutual Foundation, a dedicated corporate foundation established by MassMutual. The Mutual Impact program is completely driven by MassMutual employees. Employees choose cause areas and nonprofit organizations to receive funding, make donations which are matched dollar-for-dollar by the MassMutual Foundation to fund grants, and volunteer in support of the organization they select.

“Corporate responsibility and community involvement are part of our DNA, and we take great pride in helping people in the communities where we live and work secure a better future,” said Dennis Duquette, head of Community Responsibility with MassMutual and president of the MassMutual Foundation board of directors. “BHN tirelessly devotes time and energy in support of families in our local community, and we are pleased to support them through the Mutual Impact program.”

Mutual Impact grants were awarded to 21 nonprofit organizations for programs that fit within specific cause areas, including early-grade reading proficiency, food security, violence prevention, family economic self-sufficiency, returning veterans, successful advancement in school, child hunger, and education.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Square One has been awarded a $100,000 grant by MassMutual through the company’s Mutual Impact community-investment program. Mutual Impact is funded by MassMutual employees through the company’s annual employee-giving program and matched by the MassMutual Foundation, a dedicated corporate foundation established by MassMutual. This is the second year that Square One has received a Mutual Impact grant.

“We are so incredibly grateful to the MassMutual team for their belief in our mission and long-standing, generous support for our work,” said Kristine Allard, chief development & communications officer for Square One. “The funds we receive through this grant will support over 1,000 children and families who rely on Square One for innovative literacy programming.”

The Mutual Impact program is completely driven by MassMutual employees. Employees choose cause areas and nonprofit organizations to receive funding, make donations which are matched dollar-for-dollar by the MassMutual Foundation to fund grants, and volunteer in support of the organizations they select. Selected nonprofits have demonstrated excellence in their organization, volunteer opportunities, and community impact.

“Corporate responsibility and community involvement are part of our DNA, and we take great pride in helping people in the communities where we live and work secure a better future,” said Dennis Duquette, head of Community Responsibility with MassMutual and president of the MassMutual Foundation board of directors. “Square One tirelessly devotes time and energy in support of families in our local community, and we are pleased to support them through the Mutual Impact program.”

Mutual Impact grants were awarded to 21 nonprofit organizations for programs that fit within specific cause areas, including early-grade reading proficiency, food security, violence prevention, family economic self-sufficiency, returning veterans, successful advancement in school, child hunger, and education.

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