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Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate remained at 4.2% in May, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced Thursday.

The preliminary May job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate that Massachusetts lost 6,400 jobs. Job losses were impacted by a temporary labor dispute in the information sector. In May, leisure and hospitality was the only sector to experience over-the-month job gains.

BLS also revised upward the state’s over-the-month job gains in April, reporting that 15,200 jobs were added compared to the 13,900-job gain originally reported. From December 2015 to May 2016, Massachusetts has added 30,500 jobs.

At 4.2%, the unemployment rate is down 0.7% over the year, with the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropping from 4.9% in May 2015. There were 26,600 fewer unemployed persons and 49,000 more employed persons over the year compared to May 2015. The Commonwealth’s May unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 4.7% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The labor force continues to grow, with 7,000 more employed residents and 2,000 fewer unemployed residents in May,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II said, adding that the education and healthcare sector and the professional, scientific, and business-services sector continue to generate the most jobs in Massachusetts.

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — remained at 65.0%. The labor-force participation rate over the year has decreased 0.2% compared to May 2015.

Over the year, the largest private-sector percentage job gains by sector were in construction; professional, scientific, and business services; other services; and leisure and hospitality.

Daily News

BOSTON — The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston announced that Springfield, Pittsfield, Haverhill, Lowell, and Worcester will each receive $475,000 in the second round of the Working Cities Challenge, a competition for smaller cities in New England focused on building collaborative leadership, which is shown to be a critical element in economic growth for struggling post-industrial cities.

The five communities put forward initiatives focused on neighborhood revitalization, workforce development, and improving access to economic opportunity. The cities will work on these initiatives over a three-year period, accompanied by technical assistance and a learning community for best-practice sharing.

“I want to congratulate the winners of the Working Cities Challenge. Collaborative leadership is at the heart of this competition, and these five cities demonstrated significant capacity to reach across sectors and advance efforts on behalf of low-income residents in their communities,” said Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren. “I look forward to following the progress in the communities in the coming months and years.”

Added Gov. Charlie Baker, “together with our partners in the private, philanthropic, and nonprofit sectors, we are proud to leverage greater resources to support and prepare communities for success. The Working Cities Challenge elevates local leadership, amplifying solutions from the community level to increase cross-sector collaboration and improve economic outcomes for low-income residents.”

Last fall, 10 Massachusetts communities were each awarded $15,000 design grants through the Working Cities Challenge to strengthen their bids to the competition. The five winning cities were selected after a six-month design-grant period, which saw the cities refining proposals and adding partners from across their community.

The Springfield Works Initiative will advance the city’s economy by enhancing and strengthening the connectivity between employers who need qualified workers and low- income Springfield residents who need meaningful employment. It aims to achieve this goal through an innovative collaboration between employers, educational institutions, service providers, community leaders, community-based organizations, government, and residents.

The Springfield Works Initiative core team includes the Western Mass. Economic Development Council, the Springfield Office of Planning and Economic Development, the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, MGM Springfield, Partners for Community Action, HAPHousing, Springfield Technical Community College, Western MA National Machine and Tooling Assoc., the Community Foundation of Western Mass., Tech Foundry, United Personnel Services, United Way of Pioneer Valley, and DevelopSpringfield.

The Pittsfield Bridges: Transformative Movement (PBTM) initiative will support the journey from poverty to sustainability by collaboratively building community resources and removing barriers. The effort’s vision is for all people in Pittsfield to experience a just, thriving, and safe community. The PBTM’s goal is to improve individual, institutional, and social fairness and respect in the community and thus support individuals moving out of poverty.

The PBTM’s core team includes Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, the city of Pittsfield, the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, Berkshire Community College, BerkshireWorks Career Center, Berkshire United Way, Goodwill Industries, Berkshire Children and Families, Berkshire Health Systems, Berkshire Community Action Council, Downtown Pittsfield Inc., Pittsfield public schools, the local NAACP chapter, Pittsfield Community Connection, West Side Neighborhood Initiative, First United Methodist Church, Heart 2 Heart Ministry, Manos Unidas, Brien Center for Mental Health, Multi-Cultural Bridge, and Girls Inc.

For more information on the Working Cities Challenge, visit www.bostonfed.org/workingcities.

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates dropped in all labor market areas in the state during the month of April, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported.

All 15 areas added jobs over the month, with the largest gains in the Springfield, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Barnstable, Worcester, and Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford areas.

From April 2015 to April 2016, 14 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury, Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, Taunton-Middleborough-Norton, and Barnstable areas.

In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for April is 3.9%, down 0.7% from the March rate.

Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.2% for the month of April. The unemployment rate is down 0.8% over the year.

The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 13,900-job gain in April and an over-the-year gain of 73,500 jobs.

The unadjusted unemployment rates and job estimates for the labor market areas reflect seasonal fluctuations and therefore may show different levels and trends than the statewide seasonally adjusted estimates.

The estimates for labor force, unemployment rates, and jobs for Massachusetts are based on different statistical methodology specified by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.2% in April from the March rate of 4.4%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced Thursday.

The preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate Massachusetts continues to gain jobs, with 13,900 added in April. The April gain follows March’s revised gain of 6,600 jobs. From December 2015 to April 2016, Massachusetts has added 35,600 jobs.

In April, over-the-month job gains occurred in the professional, scientific, and business services; leisure and hospitality; trade, transportation, and utilities; education and health services; other services; information; financial activities; and manufacturing sectors. The April state unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 5.0% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“We see continued strong job gains in many of the traditional economic drivers for the state,” Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Ronald Walker II said. “The strong job gains in April are on the heels of 6,600 jobs added in March and 13,900 jobs added in February.”

The labor force increased by 15,400 from 3,581,500 in March, as 19,000 more residents were employed and 3,500 fewer residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped 0.8% from 5.0% in April 2015. There were 27,100 fewer unemployed people and 404,000 more employed people over the year compared to April 2015.

The state’s labor force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — increased 0.3% to 65% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has decreased 0.3% compared to April 2015.

Over the year, the largest private-sector percentage job gains were in construction; professional, scientific, and business services; other services; information; and education and health services.

Briefcase Departments

Leadership Pioneer Valley Seeks Class of 2017

SPRINGFIELD — Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) is now accepting applications for enrollment in its class of 2017. The regional leadership-development program begins in September.
LPV utilizes a 10-month, topically relevant, ever-changing curriculum designed to challenge and engage emerging leaders from all sectors of the community within the Pioneer Valley region. The curriculum consists of both classroom and hands-on, experiential learning through retreats, day-long seminars, field experiences, and team projects. To date, more than 180 individuals representing more than 82 companies, organizations, and municipalities have participated.
LPV is seeking applicants from nonprofits, businesses, and government who are eager to increase their leadership skills and take action to better the region. Applicants are considered in a competitive application process that prioritizes diversity by employment sector, geography, race, gender, and sexual orientation. Emerging leaders, mid-career professionals with leadership potential, and those looking to better the Pioneer Valley should consider applying.
In its five years running, the program has filled a critical need for a leadership program that builds a network of emerging leaders to address the challenges and opportunities of the region. Fifty-three percent of alumni have a new leadership role at work, 64% have joined a new board of directors, and 99% made new, meaningful connections.
The deadline for LPV class of 2017 applications is July 1. Applications and further information can be found at www.leadershippv.org.

State Unveils Low-cost Bachelor’s Degree Plan

LOWELL — Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito joined public higher-education leaders Thursday to announce the ‘Commonwealth Commitment,’ an innovative college affordability and completion plan to help more students achieve the dream of a college degree.
The Commonwealth Commitment, the first agreement of its kind in the nation, was signed by UMass President Marty Meehan, Worcester State University President Barry Maloney, and Middlesex Community College President James Mabry, representing the three segments of the public higher-education system, at a ceremony at Middlesex Community College. The plan commits every public campus to providing 10% rebates at the end of each successfully completed semester to qualifying undergraduate students, in addition to the standard MassTransfer tuition waiver received upon entering a four-year institution from a community college. Students who meet the program requirements will, depending on the transfer pathway they choose, be able to realize an average savings of $5,090 off the cost of a baccalaureate degree. Also, as part of the Commonwealth Commitment’s goal to increase cost savings and predictability, tuition and mandatory fees will be frozen for program participants as of the date they enter the program.
Students will begin their studies at one of the state’s 15 community colleges, enrolling in one of 24 Commonwealth Commitment/Mass Transfer Pathways programs that will roll out in fall 2016 (14 programs) and fall 2017 (10 additional programs). They must attend full-time, and must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0. After earning an associate’s degree in two and a half years or less, students will transfer to a state university or UMass campus to earn a baccalaureate degree.
“I am pleased that our higher-education leaders have worked collaboratively to create this program to decrease the cost of a college degree and accelerate on-time completion,” Baker. “Even though public higher education in Massachusetts is already a great value, the Commonwealth Commitment will make it even easier for students to go to school full-time and to enter the workforce faster and with less debt.”

Springfield Among Cities Gaining Jobs

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates dropped in 12 labor market areas, remained the same in nine areas, and increased in three areas in the state during the month of March, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. The rates were down in all areas compared to March 2015.
A total of 14 areas added jobs over the month, with the largest gains in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Springfield, Worcester, Framingham, and Barnstable areas. The Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford area recorded the only loss over the month. From March 2015 to March 2016, 14 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Haverhill-Newport-Amesbury, Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, and Barnstable areas. The Lynn-Saugus-Marblehead area jobs level remained unchanged.

Hydropower Project Upgrades Announced

WEST SPRINGFIELD — State energy officials announced more than $1 million in funding to support upgrades to hydroelectric facilities in three communities. Facilities receiving grant funding are Mini-Watt Hydroelectric in Orange, Pioneer Hydro Electric in Ware, and A&D Hydro Inc. in West Springfield. The initiatives, announced during Earth Week, are aimed at increasing Massachusetts’ clean-energy generation.
“In filing legislation for the procurement of cost-effective, low-carbon hydropower, our administration recognizes the importance of improving renewable-energy facilities to help the Commonwealth continue to lead the way on clean energy, energy efficiency, and the adoption of innovative technologies,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “These grants to make hydropower facilities more efficient and increase hydropower production will help us meet our greenhouse-gas emissions goals and continue to increase the role of renewables in our energy portfolio.”
The upgrades, which are being funded through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Hydropower Program, will allow the facilities to annually produce an average of 1.2 million more kilowatt hours of renewable electricity.
“Upgrading local hydroelectric facilities further diversifies the Commonwealth’s energy portfolio, while helping to reach our ambitious greenhouse-gas emissions-reduction goals,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “Hydropower is a low-cost, clean resource that allows us to provide reliable electricity to Massachusetts residents while protecting the environment.”

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates dropped in 12 labor market areas, remained the same in nine areas and increased in three areas in the state during the month of March, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. The rates were down in all areas compared to March 2015.

A total of 14 areas added jobs over the month, with the largest gains in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Springfield, Worcester, Framingham and Barnstable areas. The Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford area recorded the only loss over the month.

From March 2015 to March 2016, 14 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Haverhill-Newport-Amesbury, Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton and Barnstable areas. The Lynn-Saugus-Marblehead area jobs level remained unchanged.

In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for March is 4.6%, down 0.1 of a percentage point from the February rate.

Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.4% for the month of March. The unemployment rate is down 0.7% over the year.

The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 6,900-job gain in March and an over-the-year gain of 61,400 jobs.

40 Under 40 The Class of 2016

GPSTEM Program Director, Springfield Technical Community College; Age 39

Lidya Rivera-Early

Lidya Rivera-Early


There’s a quote from the late Puerto Rican baseball star Roberto Clemente that Lidya Rivera-Early lives by. “Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.”

It’s sound advice, she says, but Clemente’s words also spur positive memories for her. Rivera-Early moved to Springfield from Puerto Rico as a teenager 25 years ago, and remembers her childhood on the island as one full of music, food, laughter, and trips to baseball games with her family. As such, the ideas of giving back, empowerment of others, and the importance of building relationships are blended together for her, and she champions them each day, both in her position as GPSTEM (Guided Pathways to Success in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program director at Springfield Technical Community College and in her personal life.

“What’s most important to me is empowering others,” she said.

She does so in her career by providing people across the city of Springfield — not just at STCC — with the tools they need to “grow and obtain success,” as she puts it. More specifically, that means identifying and creating new, innovative strategies for educational and career development that speak to a diverse community and prepare individuals for today’s workforce.

“We pay close attention to what employers are looking for, and we pass this information on to the community,” she said, noting that she works frequently with career centers in the area such as FutureWorks to reach people outside of the STCC student body. “Anywhere the community has a need, we go.”

In fact, Rivera-Early is often seen all over the city, through her role at STCC, but also as a volunteer with the Gandara Mental Health Center, the Family Resource Center, the Springfield City Council’s ad hoc committee for workforce development, and Let’s Connect, a nonprofit startup initiative, among others.

She’s also joined up with Focus Springfield Community Television to produce a show called Against All Odds, wherein young people in the area gather to talk about the issues they face and how they’ve overcome them.

“I’m very passionate about working with youths to help them find their voices,” she said. “I identify with a lot of their struggles, and helping them grow is extremely important to me.”

Rivera-Early added that she loves what she does in part because it isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” kind of career, unlike her favorite Clemente jersey.

“I found the right path for me,” she said, and there is family, hope, music, and baseball all along the way.

— Jaclyn Stevenson


Photography by Leah Martin Photography

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 4.4% in March from the February rate of 4.5%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. Preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate Massachusetts continues to gain jobs, with 6,900 added in March.

The March gain follows upward revisions for February, with total job gains of 13,900. Preliminary February estimates indicated the state added 13,300 jobs over the month. Massachusetts has added 22,000 jobs year-to-date from March 2015 to March 2016.

In March, over-the-month job gains occurred in the construction; trade, transportation, and utilities; other services; information; education and health services; and government sectors.

“We are very pleased to see the unemployment rate continues to drop and the labor force is increasing,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker said. “We see continued job growth in many of the state’s strongest sectors, including health services and education, and professional, scientific, and business services.”

The March state unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 5.0% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Daily News

BOSTON — Unemployment rates went down in all 24 labor market areas in Massachusetts during the month of February, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. The rates were also down in all areas compared to February 2015.

Six areas added jobs over the month, with gains in the Springfield, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Worcester, Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, and Peabody-Salem-Beverly areas.

From February 2015 to February 2016, fourteen areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, Haverhill-Newport-Amesbury, and Barnstable areas. The Lynn-Saugus-Marblehead area recorded a loss.

Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.5% for the month of February. The unemployment rate is down 0.6% over the year. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 13,300 job gain in February and an over-the-year gain of 67,100 jobs.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 4.5% in February from the January rate of 4.7%, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported Thursday. The preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate Massachusetts continues to gain jobs, with 13,300 added in February. Year to date, Massachusetts has added 14,500 jobs.

In February, over-the-month job gains occurred in education and health services; professional, scientific, and business services; financial activities; leisure and hospitality; other services; construction; trade, transportation, and utilities; and government.

“Massachusetts continues to add jobs, and the labor force showed positive gains with 14,100 more residents employed and 7,400 fewer residents unemployed over the month,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald L. Walker II said.

The February state unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 4.9% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped 0.6% from 5.1% in February 2015. There were 24,600 fewer unemployed people over the year compared to February 2015. Over the year, the largest private-sector percentage job gains were in construction; professional, scientific, and business services; education and health services; and financial activities.

Opinion

Editorial

In many ways, it’s easy to see why a relationship most often described with the word ‘adversarial’ — and usually with an adverb in front of it for good measure — developed between Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College.

After all, when the latter was established in the mid-’60s, there were many people, including most everyone associated with HCC, which was established 20 years earlier, who wondered out loud if another community college was needed just seven miles away from HCC.

Actually, they did more than wonder. They answered that question with a definitive ‘no.’

But STCC was created anyway, and it’s fair to say that it began its life with a sizable chip on its shoulder. It had to prove it was not only needed, but that it could deliver a high-quality education and effectively serve the region.

It took a while, but this was accomplished. And during the lengthy tenure of President Andy Scibelli, the school rose to national and even international prominence, especially through the emergence of its technology park.

Through all of that, the adversarial relationship prevailed as the schools competed fiercely for students across a number of common programs, but also for funding, capital projects, and recognition.

To their credit, Ira Rubenzahl, who succeeded Scibelli, and Bill Messner, who followed David Bartley as president of HCC, saw that, while the schools would always compete, and that such a rivalry was good for both schools because it helps promote continuous improvement, the animosity between the institutions was unnecessary and, indeed, counterproductive for the region.

‘Counterproductive’ is a strong word, but it’s applicable here because, while both HCC and STCC are fine schools, there are many things they can do if they work together, but not if they remain islands unto themselves.

The best example of this, of course, is that nagging and ongoing challenge known to all as the skills gap. We’ve said it many times before, but it bears repeating: this is probably the most pressing problem facing the business community at present and the largest single impediment to growth for companies, business sectors, and the region as a whole.

Businesses cannot flourish if they don’t have a reliable pipeline of quality workers. Working independently, neither STCC not HCC could create such pipelines. But by working together collaboratively, they can address the problem much more effectively, and they have, through the TWO (Training & Workforce Options) initiative (see story, page 15). It has assisted a number of individual businesses and sectors through creation of programs to provide individuals with the specific skills needed to meet recognized workforce challenges.

And while both schools and both presidents (each set to retire in a few months) are very proud of the Deval Patrick Award for Workforce Development, awarded by the Boston Foundation, which they won together for TWO, they’re far more proud of the way the program has provided answers for the business community.

There are many other examples of how the schools have worked collaboratively in recent years, and together they make a statement — one powerful enough for us to note that, while Messner and Rubenzahl will be recognized for all they did for their individual schools, they may be best remembered for what they, and their institutions, did together.

Education Sections

Now Friendly Rivals

Bill Messner, right, and Ira Rubenzahl.

Bill Messner, right, and Ira Rubenzahl.

Located just seven miles apart as the crow flies, Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College have always competed, and in vigorous fashion, for everything from students to press coverage to state funding for capital projects. But when they arrived at their respective campuses in 2004, Presidents Bill Messner and Ira Rubenzahl found the relationship between the schools to be a case not of healthy competition, but unhealthy animosity. So they set about changing that equation. And as both men prepare to retire, they talked about what would have to be considered a stunning new attitude that prevails at both schools.

Neither man recalls which one of them actually picked up the phone and called the other.

What they clearly remember, though, is that a call, the first of many, was made. And, considering all that’s happened since the conversation ended, it could only be described with the adjective ‘historic.’

Ira Rubenzahl and Bill Messner had been at their new positions, as president of Springfield Technical Community College and Holyoke Community College, respectively, for just a few months (Rubenzahl arrived a few weeks earlier) in that summer of 2004. And while they hadn’t learned everything about the challenges that lay ahead, they did know one thing — that the relationship between the two schools, located just seven miles apart, had to change, and soon.

“Let’s just say that the institutions had not been working well together,” said Messner, his tone blending understatement with a dose of sarcasm as he described what he found upon his arrival. “And that was really not productive.”

Added Rubenzahl, “it didn’t take long to figure out that there was this problem. And we basically said, together, ‘we have to stop competing and start working together.’”

Actually, the competition hasn’t stopped, and both presidents agree that it can’t and won’t because, as the old saying goes, it’s good for the parties involved. But the animosity that prevailed a dozen years ago is mostly gone. And it hasn’t been missed.

For evidence of this, Rubenzahl and Messner pointed to a number of initiatives involving everything from workforce development to adult basic education; from legislative get-togethers to initiatives to train workers for MGM’s planned $900 million casino in Springfield’s South End.

They even listed the fact that the two travel together to meetings in Boston and elsewhere, and did so with a note of wonder in their tone that speaks volumes about just how bad things were.

Perhaps the very best piece of evidence, though, is the Deval Patrick Award for Workforce Development, presented by the Boston Foundation, which the schools earned together in 2014 for their collaborative effort known as TWO (Training & Workforce Options); more on that later.

Getting from where relations (if one could call them that) were in 2004 to where they are now didn’t happen overnight and would never be described as easy, both men noted.

“There are areas in which we’re much better off collaborating than we are competing,” said Messner. “But it took us a couple of years to get our arms around what those areas were, and how we could collaborate effectively.”

Also, the mountain to climb in terms of the level of animosity to be overcome was high and steep, said Rubenzahl.

“Bill and I got comfortable very quickly,” he noted. “But it took a while for the troops to line up because it was so inbred.”

Eventually, the troops did fall in line, both men noted, but the movement clearly started at the top.

Which is exactly why BusinessWest met with both presidents in Messner’s office in Frost Hall earlier this month. They’ve both announced that they’re retiring, with Rubenzahl due to exit stage left in June, and Messner a month or two later.

Yes, the presidents who arrived in the Pioneer Valley together will be leaving it together. And they’re leaving behind a track record of collaboration that couldn’t have been imagined a decade and a half ago.

Perhaps the best news is that both believe this pattern of cooperation has become so ingrained — and so welcomed by the schools’ respective boards — that they find it difficult to imagine a scenario in which it won’t continue after they’ve left their respective campuses.

“It will probably change in some ways to reflect the personalities of the two folks who are going to be following us,” said Messner. “But I think it’s grounded enough that it will continue. And my sense is that, if those two folks don’t choose to continue to collaborate, they’ll pay a price of some sort.”

New Course of Action

To put the dramatic change in the relationship between the two colleges in perspective, both Rubenzahl and Messner took a quick trip back to last summer and a press event that was significant on a number of levels.

Gov. Charlie Baker was coming to Western Mass. to deliver good news for both schools: HCC was getting $2.5 million for much-needed renovations of its cramped, antiquated, and leaky campus center, and STCC was getting $3 million for design work on a planned $50 million project to convert the historic structure known as Building 19 — one of the oldest buildings on the Springfield Armory complex later repurposed into the community college — into a new campus center.

He would announce both awards in a single ceremony at HCC, an arrangement STCC quickly signed off on.

“Before we came, they would never have dared to do that,” said Rubenzahl, saying those words slowly for additional emphasis and using the word ‘they’ to mean both the institutions and their presidents. “There would have been huge objections to doing that.”

Messner agreed, and, like his counterpart, treaded lightly, and diplomatically, when asked about the root causes of the sentiments that prevailed when he arrived.

HCC’s Kittredge Center

The opening of HCC’s Kittredge Center is one of the highlights of Bill Messner’s tenure, which was defined by improved relations with STCC.

However, it was well-known across the region, and even across the state, that the leaders’ predecessors — David Bartley, previously speaker of the Massachusetts House, at HCC, and Andy Scibelli, former Springfield city official and nephew of powerful state Rep. Anthony Scibelli, at STCC — didn’t exactly get along and were ferociously competitive, to put it mildly. And their institutions followed their lead — with a passion.

To explain the mood, Rubenzahl recalled some dialogue at a meeting he convened with several senior staff members at STCC not long after arriving.

“Someone referred to the ‘enemy,’” he recalled. “I said, ‘what enemy? Do you mean Holyoke?’ And he said, ‘yes, Holyoke.’ I was really taken aback by that, and said, ‘they’re not the enemy.’”

Rubenzahl believes that aforementioned phone conversation with Messner had already occurred by that point, but the chosen terminology cemented in his mind — actually both men’s minds, because similar language was being used in the campus off Homestead Avenue in Holyoke — that change was necessary.

And it came about, they said, partly due to those changes at the top, but also because it simply made sense.

Indeed, both presidents and their staffs had concluded that, while the schools would go on competing — “like Ford and Chevy do,” said Messner — they could also collaborate in many ways and, while doing so, achieve much more together than they ever could separately.

Examples abound, but TWO is clearly the most visible and perhaps the most impactful.

Messner described it as a “mechanism” for collaboration, the initiative that resulted from that somewhat time-consuming process he described earlier of determining in which realms the schools could collaborate, and how.

As the name suggests, the program involves creation of individually tailored programs to help solve workforce problems, specifically those related to the skills gap that has impacted virtually every sector of the economy.

Since its creation five years ago, TWO has assisted large corporations, small businesses, and broad economic sectors, said Rubenzahl, and it’s an example of something the schools could do with some success independent of one another, but to a much greater level of achievement together.

School of Thought

While TWO is the most visible manifestation of the new climate of cooperation between the two schools, there are many others, said the two presidents — starting with the meeting they were at just before sitting down with BusinessWest.

This was a gathering of state legislators to discuss matters involving public higher education, especially funding for the schools and individual initiatives. Years ago, there would have been two of these sessions, said Rubenzahl, one for HCC and one for STCC, because, well, that’s how it was done. (Actually, Greenfield Community College and Berkshire Community College had their own sessions as well.)

Now, there’s a single gathering — a practice that began the spring after the two presidents arrived — and it involves not only those two schools, but all seven public colleges and universities in Western Mass. Thus, the sessions are usually more productive because there are more people in the room, and far more convenient for legislators.

“I called Bill and said, ‘doesn’t it make sense to just have one?’” Rubenzahl recalled. “And for a lot of reasons; you’re more likely to get more legislators, and you can be more effective if you have several colleges saying the same thing as opposed to each one stating their individual needs.”

The legislative get-together is a simple yet effective example of collaboration, said Messner, adding that many others share its basic reason for being: common sense.

STCC

STCC President Ira Rubenzahl says his campus now looks for ways to collaborate with its competitor in Holyoke.

That list includes everything from faculty-development programs to the joint hiring of a consultant to create so-called wage grids; from adult basic education — something STCC has become more proficient at thanks to assistance from HCC — to the somewhat daunting task of training hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of the individuals MGM will eventually hire.

When looking back at how the current partnership on casino training came about, both presidents said this is another example of something that wouldn’t have materialized 13 years ago because of the animosity between the schools.

“We have this trust … we have this agreement — we don’t do things separately,” said Rubenzahl, adding that, years ago, the two schools probably would have fought tooth and nail for the entire pie. In this new era of cooperation, they agreed to split the pie long before the Gaming Commission determined the winner of the Western Mass. license.

“It wasn’t clear where the casino was going. Was it going to go to Palmer? Was it going to Springfield? Was it going to go to Holyoke?” he recalled. “But before we knew where it was going, we said, ‘an individual campus is not going to get involved in the training; we’re going to do it together.

“It winds up going in Springfield, but instead of fighting over it, we had already lined up our ducks,” he went on. “We had already figured out that, because Holyoke is really strong in culinary arts, if there’s culinary training, they’re going to get it. They can do it; we can’t do it. And we’re going to do some of the IT training, perhaps.”

Whenever there’s a meeting with MGM officials, the schools go together, said Messner, adding that the casino project is a good example of how the schools work together to meet the workforce needs of the five major sectors of the economy — manufacturing, healthcare, technology, hospitality, and financial services — because neither school can do all that alone.

As still another example of something happening now that wouldn’t have happened years ago — this one involving geography, or territory, as much as anything else — Messner cited initiatives blueprinted by Holyoke schools’ receiver  Stephen Zrike for Dean Technical High School.

“He wants two programs connected to college work,” Messner explained. “One is going to be in healthcare, and we’ll do that one, and the other is manufacturing, and we’re going to do that in conjunction with STCC; we’re not going to try to do that alone.”

Added Rubenzahl, “because of this [new relationship], we can do things we couldn’t do otherwise. Before, you couldn’t do that — you couldn’t go into the other college’s hometown and run a public-school program.”

Class Act

As for those shared rides to Boston and other destinations for gatherings of public-school leaders, both men laughed as they talked about how the practice has evolved and how it never would have happened with their predecessors.

“I drive, and he talks,” said Messner, referring to how a typical journey unfolds.

But while they carpool to such meetings, they usually don’t sit together once they arrive — a tradition that is more strategic than any kind of statement about how the schools, and presidents, get along.

“We don’t want to look like a two-headed monster,” said Rubenzahl, adding that the two are usually of a similar mind on most matters and don’t want to appear to be delivering comments in stereo.

Messner agreed. “You can’t cluster your strength all in one part of the room — you have to spread it out.”

In truth, and despite those seating arrangements, the schools have indeed become a two-headed monster — of collaboration.

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

Daily News

BOSTON — Local unemployment rates in January went down in all 24 labor-market areas in the state compared to January 2015, according to data measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, over-the-month comparisons show seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates went up in 23 areas of the state from December 2015 to January 2016 and remained the same in one area, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported.

From January 2015 to January 2016, 14 areas added jobs, with the largest-percentage gains in the Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, Haverhill-Newport-Amesbury, and Barnstable areas. One area recorded a loss. The statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 2,500 job loss in January and an over-the-year gain of 48,900 jobs.

Community Spotlight Features
Mayor Linda Tyer

Mayor Linda Tyer says her administration is focused more on helping and growing existing busineses, not luring someone “out there.”

BusinessWest spoke with Pittsfield’s Mayor Linda Tyer on day 11 of her administration.

Only 1,450 days to go.

That’s notable because Tyer is serving Pittsfield’s first-ever four-year term, and, as such, she’s in the beginning stages of laying out a map for the long haul that pinpoints high roads, trouble spots, destinations for the future, and plenty of pit stops in between.

The journey began for Tyer last year, while she was still serving as city clerk. She’d served as a member of the City Council for five years prior to taking the clerk’s position, and watching the inner workings of Pittsfield’s government had her mulling a run for its top office.

“I saw the city’s potential being lost to old ways of thinking, governing, and leading,” she said. “It was time for a new generation of leadership, and I wanted the residents of Pittsfield to really think about what they imagined for themselves. I offered an alternative in every way: from gender to voice to style.”

Tyer announced her candidacy for mayor on the City Hall steps in March, and defeated two-term incumbent Mayor Daniel Bianchi in November. Since then, she’s pledged more communication and relationship building between the mayor’s office and all its stakeholders, from elected officials to Pittsfield’s residents and business owners.

“The plan is to have constant, regular communication, both incoming and outgoing,” she said, noting that this will include regularly scheduled public updates on some key issues — among them public safety, workforce development and retention, and ongoing work to create a hip, walkable urban center in the heart of Berkshire County. “We need to invest in public safety and, as part of that, address the underlying issues that are the source of crime, including poverty and feeling disenfranchised.”

Tyer added that there are strategies at play in these arenas, starting with youth initiatives such as a city-wide mentoring program for high-risk young adults. That program has recently been expanded through grant funding to include job training and workforce-development opportunities for men ages 17 to 24, which is one way Pittsfield is also addressing the dual issue of workforce training to fill the area’s job vacancies.

“The business community cares that its investments are being protected, but it also cares about filling the gap that exists between marketing their jobs and finding candidates with the right skills,” she said.

Abandoned sites scattered across the city and outdated technologies are other barriers to recruiting and retaining great talent in Pittsfield, Tyer noted.

“Neighborhood blight and business blight make it very difficult to market our city; it affects community pride, and potential investors aren’t going to announce their arrival so we can show them our best sites … they’re going to be stealth,” she said. “And we need access to broadband in our commercial centers. We have the infrastructure, but we’re not yet plugged in. A modern-day creative economy has to be global.”

Ultimately, that creative economy is what Tyer hopes to nurture through all of these initiatives: a diverse business landscape powered by human capital.

“Our transportation system is not conducive to big manufacturing — that’s not our strength,” she said. “What we can do is ensure that we’re providing young professionals with the tools they need to succeed so we can continue to cultivate the vibrant community we have here.”

To that end, Tyer’s plans for the first leg of her four-year tour of duty include targeting resources to Berkshire-based small businesses; ‘Blight to Bright’ initiatives, such as requiring that vacant buildings are maintained for aesthetics and safety; street-improvement plans; and strategies for expansion of early-childhood education.

It’s a packed itinerary, but Tyer said she has the drive.

“I am motivated by a belief that the city has great potential,” she said.

— Jaclyn C. Stevenson

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — FutureWorks Career Center announced the addition of six new directors to the organization’s board: Brian Connors, deputy director, Economic Development, city of Springfield; Kermit Dunkelberg, assistant vice president, Workforce Development, Holyoke Community College; Marylou Fabbo, attorney, Skoler, Abbott & Presser; Mike Grandfield, senior vice president, commercial relationship manager, Berkshire Bank; George Kohout, director, ABE/ESOL Services, Springfield Technical Community College; and Vicki Shrewsbury, director, Talent Acquisition, Smith & Wesson.

Board president MacArthur Starks Jr., assistant vice president at MassMutual, said the group will bring a fresh focus to the organization.

“Each newly added board member brings experience and a wealth of diverse knowledge related to workforce issues, career centers, and the challenges confronting our labor market,” he noted. “The volunteer board works to focus FutureWorks’ mission of advancing the careers of our customers and supporting the needs of local business. This includes strengthening program services, financial oversight, and enhancing our public standing.”

Daily News

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker, Secretary of Education James Peyser, Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Ronald Walker II, and Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash announced a series of new initiatives to support career vocational technical education, including $83.5 million to be proposed between the governor’s FY 2017 budget recommendation and new capital grant funding to be filed in an economic-development bill this week.

“With too many good-paying jobs going unfilled, we are pleased to announce this critical investment in our career and technical schools,” Baker said. “Our proposal will make it possible for more students to explore a pathway to success through stronger partnerships with our schools and local businesses in the Commonwealth.”

The funding in the FY 2017 budget will be coupled with a substantial capital-grant program for vocational equipment that further aligns the administration’s investments with local economic- and workforce-development needs and employment partnerships.

“Massachusetts has some of the strongest career-technical programs in the country, at both the high-school and college levels, but access and quality are uneven across the Commonwealth, and there’s currently little alignment across education levels,” said Peyser. “Our efforts will significantly expand student access to high-quality career-education programs in STEM fields, manufacturing, and traditional trades, with a focus on underserved populations and communities.”

Added Walker, “finding ways to make sure people get the skills and job training they need to get a good-paying job is one of the biggest challenges before us. With these initiatives, we will engage employers as full partners in program design and implementation to help them create a pipeline of workers.”

Ash noted that “vocational institutions are an important part of training the workforce to address the skills gap. These additional resources will continue to equip vocational institutions as they train the next generation of skilled workers who will help grow the Commonwealth’s economy.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — According to a Commonwealth Corp. report, significant gaps exist between the skills and education of the Massachusetts workforce and the labor-market demands of employers. While Massachusetts may have the most highly educated workforce of any state in the country, its labor market is aging out, and the emerging workforce is neither large enough nor well-educated enough to replace the retiring talent. As a result, employers are struggling to find skilled workers to meet their growing demands.

David Cruise, president and CEO of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County (REB), will discuss this issue and new federal and state policies aimed at creating a demand-driven workforce-development system at the Springfield Regional Chamber Lunch ‘n’ Learn on Wednesday, Feb. 10 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at La Quinta Inn & Suites, 100 Congress St., Springfield.

“We hear all the time from our members that they need skilled workers specific to their industries, and the REB is at the forefront of this issue, working with state and federal leaders to create a demand-driven focus of workforce development,” said Springfield Regional Chamber President Jeffrey Ciuffreda.

Cruise will also discuss the Massachusetts Workforce Investment Board created by Gov. Charlie Baker last year and its role in building a strong workforce system which responds to the labor needs of the region’s economy. The board is tasked with developing plans and policies with an eye towards investing in a skilled workforce, closing the gap that exists between available jobs and the skills of workers, and meeting the labor demands of the 21st century, all while recognizing and developing strategies specific to the state’s various regions.

Reservations for the Lunch ‘n’ Learn are $25 for members, $35 for general admission, which includes networking, lunch, presentation, and question-and-answer session. Reservations may be made online at www.springfieldregionalchamber.com or by e-mailing Sarah Mazzaferro at [email protected].

Education Sections

A New Front Door

Bill Fogarty

Bill Fogarty shows off the water-collection apparatus in G-313.

The number outside the door is G-313. But everyone knows it as the ‘digital video studio.’

It’s a well-equipped facility — done over as part of a $2 million renovation of the media center in Holyoke Community College’s campus center in 2008 — and, in most respects, it looks like a modern classroom.

Except for the black tarpaulin positioned just below the ceiling near the middle of the room.

This is an elaborate apparatus, actually, with the tarp hung so that the water leaking from the ceiling flows down and to the center, where it then passes into a hose that empties into a five-gallon bucket sitting on the floor.

“Pretty attractive, huh?” asked Bill Fogarty, HCC’s vice president of Administration and Finance as he offered a tour of the campus center, something he’s done quite often lately, but not for the reason he’d like.

Indeed, he’s certainly not showing off the facility, also known as Building G, hence G-313. Instead, he’s pointing out what the HCC community has had to put up with since … well, pretty much since the day the sloping, concrete facility opened its doors in 1980.

Fogarty’s not sure what month or day that was, but from what he’s heard anecdotally, the building has leaked since just after the ceremonial ribbon was cut — or at least the first day it rained.

Efforts to remediate the problem have continued for the past 35 years, mostly with stopgap measures like those in G-313. Funding for a permanent solution has come only after innumerable tours offered by Fogarty and others and countless “dog-and-pony shows,” as he called them, featuring color photos of the digital video center and several other facilities with water-collection systems of varying levels of sophistication.

The wait (for funding, anyway) finally ended last summer, when the state announced it was awarding $2.5 million for a massive renovation effort, the final monetary piece needed for what will be a $43.5 million project that will — in 30 months or so, according to current estimates — lead to tours of a much different kind.

When it’s over, the project to square off the campus center, thus eliminating the angles contributing to the water-damage problems, and add roughly 8,000 square feet will yield a facility that is in many ways state-of-the-art, student-friendly, and doesn’t leak.

It will in many ways give the school a new feel — and entry point, said its long-time president, Bill Messner.

“This will allow for a front door, which is something we’ve never had before,” he explained, adding that, despite its importance, the campus center is accessible only from a series of stairs leading down from the Frost Building, the main administration building, or from the adjoining Kittredge Center for Business & Workforce Development.

Plans call for an elaborate makeover of the dining-services facilities; a new home for the campus bookstore, which is currently housed in cramped, and, yes, leaking space on the ground floor; a new admissions office; and improved traffic flow to all those facilities.

The renovation project will create some headaches and logistical challenges — books will be sold only online for the length of the construction project, and dining facilities will be temporarily relocated to the already-crowded Frost Building next door, for example.

But the end result will be a facility that will certainly help the college as it works to attract students — HCC competes across many programs with Springfield Technical Community College, only eight miles away — and greatly enhance the experience for those who choose to attend.

Leaking Information

The campus-center project is the latest in a number of projects over the past decade or so that have in many ways transformed an HCC campus that first opened in the mid-’70s, and has been showing its age in many respects.

The 57,000-square-foot Kittredge Center, which opened in 2006, was a major addition to the campus, as was the new Center for Health Education, which opened its doors this past fall in the former Grynn & Barrett Studios building on Jarvis Avenue, just a few hundred yards from the campus (see story, page 22).

In the planning stages is a major renovation of the Marieb Building, which will house the HCC Center for Life Sciences on its first floor.

These and other projects have been undertaken to improve the student experience, create new learning opportunities, and improve student-recruitment efforts, said Messner, adding that the campus-center renovations were blueprinted for all the same reasons.

But at its core, this project was undertaken — and it’s been years, if not decades in the making — to eliminate design flaws, and thus water-infiltration issues and resulting building-material failures, that have plagued the building literally since the day it opened.

Indeed, as he offered his tour of the campus center, the last of what’s considered the “original” buildings on the campus, Fogarty showed BusinessWest several facilities with leaks and various forms of water-collection equipment, including other classrooms, the storage area in the bookstore, and a room just off the dining-services facility which, because of persistent leaks, has been used only for storage over the past several years.

“It’s been a chamber of horrors,” said Fogarty, adding that the college community has essentially had to live with the problem. And in recent years, that became increasingly difficult, creating a sense of urgency that culminated in more of those dog-and-pony shows, which helped prompt the state to include $2.5 million for the project as part of a larger package for capital projects. The balance of the cost is being funded through state bonds.

In a nutshell, the project calls for, well, building a new nutshell.

Holyoke Community College

Officials at Holyoke Community College say the campus center has leaked since the day it opened in 1980.

“To solve the problem, we’ve explored a number of options,” Fogarty explained. “And it’s been determined that the best way to approach this is not to simply over-clad the building, but to square it off — to actually build a new exterior of the building.

“The idea is to square it off and have it look more like the Kittredge Building,” he went on. “That’s because the campus center is not a very attractive building. And while it’s more consistent with the rest of the campus, it’s the building that’s in the worst shape.”

Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2017, and it will require closing down the structure for the duration of the project. That reality will force some imaginative responses, said Fogarty, because the campus is already cramped.

But the end product will be well worth the inconveniences, he went on, because it will give the college a campus center that is far more welcoming, student-friendly, and easy to access.

“We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for new students and new families coming to the campus to find this parking lot and then have a straight shot to admissions,” said Fogarty, citing just one example of how the renovated Building G will represent a substantial improvement over existing conditions.

Messner agreed. “Admissions is currently buried down on the second floor of this building [Frost, the main administration facility], and it’s a very unappealing situation,” he explained, “particularly when you’re trying to attract and impress and serve potential new students.

“So this is not only going to be much more attractive and conducive to a welcoming environment,” he went on, “it’s also going to cluster an array of services around admissions that lend themselves to serving potential new students — the testing, the advising, and more.”

Another example would be the plans for the new bookstore, to be relocated from its current basement home.

“Right now, you have to make an effort to find the bookstore; it’s just not conveniently located,” said Fogarty. “What we want to do is bring the bookstore to the second floor, and have that facility, the dining services, and the student-activity services all on the same floor, and all opening up to a common corridor.”

Dry Subject Matter

Fogarty said he’s essentially done giving tours of the campus center — at least for the next two and half years or so.

But he expects he’ll doing a lot of them afterward, showing off a facility that will be modern, accessible, easy to use, and, best of all, dry.

Indeed, G-313 will look like a modern classroom — without the water-collection apparatus.

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

Briefcase Departments

MGM Springfield Wins Final License Approval

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Springfield announced it has received its final state license approval from the Mass. Gaming Commission (MGC), clearing the way to begin construction. The MGC specifically found that all feasible measures have been taken to avoid or minimize impacts of the project and damage to the environment. “We are grateful to the MGC commissioners for their detailed deliberations and patience with this process,” said Michael Mathis, MGM Springfield president. “This comprehensive review has helped MGM Springfield evolve into the most community-facing and integrated property MGM Resorts has ever built.” Separately, the proposed design changes must still be approved by the city and the MGC. Updated MGM Springfield design plans were made public in September, and company executives appeared at a public presentation in Springfield in November to outline the design plan, highlighting changes that allowed for both design and cost efficiencies, as well as to provide a new project cost estimate of more than $950 million. “This approval has been a year in the making,” Mathis said. “We are eager to bring this back to Springfield and work with the city to get final signoff for impactful demolition and construction.” The Springfield City Council is expected to discuss and vote on a casino overlay district on Monday, Dec. 21. MGM Springfield representatives will be at the meeting. The new year will be busy for MGM with the commencement of active construction. MGM Springfield construction-management representatives will host ongoing information sessions with interested minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses, and the opening of the relocated MGM Springfield Community Office.

Massachusetts to See Income-tax Decrease

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced that the final economic trigger was met in order to lower the state’s income tax from 5.15% to 5.10%. The income-tax cut for all Massachusetts residents will become effective on Jan. 1. “Meeting the requirements needed to reduce the income-tax rate is a sign that the Massachusetts economy remains strong,” Baker said. “Allowing citizens across the Commonwealth to keep more money in their pockets will allow the state’s economy to continue growing in 2016.” Added Polito, “the will of the voters has persevered. It’s been 15 years since the voters first made this decision, and every chance we get to provide more discretionary income is a good day for the Commonwealth and the taxpayers.” Kristen Lepore, secretary of the Executive Office for Administration and Finance, noted that “the fiscal year 2016 budget revenue assumed effects of the lower tax rate to 5.10% and has been accounted for in the balance sheet. This is good news for the taxpayers with no new impact on the state’s fiscal outlook.” A ballot initiative passed in 2000 called for the state’s income tax to be reduced to 5% over time. Legislation was passed in 2002 that tied reducing the tax rate by 0.05% each tax year (until the Part B income tax rate is 5%) to certain economic triggers. First, the inflation adjusted growth in baseline tax revenues for the preceding fiscal year has to exceed 2.5%. The second trigger, completed on the 15th of each month between September and December, certifies that the inflation-adjusted growth in baseline tax revenues over the previous three months of the current calendar year compared to the same periods of the prior calendar year is greater than zero. Once the statutory triggers are met, the rate is lowered by 0.05% until it reaches 5% percent. The charitable deduction will be restored the year after the tax rate is lowered to 5%. The last time all growth thresholds were met was in 2014.

DevelopSpringfield Issues Grants for Façade Improvements

SPRINGFIELD — DevelopSpringfield recently awarded several façade-improvement grants through the Corridor Storefront Improvement Program (CSIP), which provides grants of up to $10,000 per storefront for exterior improvements to first-floor businesses located on State and Main streets in Springfield. A grant of $30,000 was provided to Boynton Property Group for work related to its rehabilitation of the shopping plaza located at 666 State St. in the city’s Mason Square area. Funds provided were allocated toward new signage, enhanced lighting, and new windows to the plaza, home to a restaurant and beauty salon. Silverbrick Group has been making major renovations to the former Morgan Square property at 1593-1607 Main St. The project includes redevelopment of the apartments, creating Silverbrick Lofts as well as renovations to first-floor commercial space. A grant of $60,000 was provided to support installation of new, energy-efficient windows and doors for six units on the ground floor. This contribution augmented the substantial investment by the project’s developers which, in addition to the newly refurbished apartments, also includes major repairs to masonry work on the upper stories of the property. Silverbrick is located in Springfield’s downtown Innovation District, a priority redevelopment area. Finally, as a part of Nadim’s Mediterranean Grill’s recent redesign, DevelopSpringfield provided a $10,000 grant to aid in the façade enhancement, including new windows, signage, and awning. The restaurant, located at 1380-1390 Main St., has undergone a major redesign inside and out. Nadim’s made further investments to improve the inside dining room as well as the patio dining experience. “DevelopSpringfield is pleased to support these Springfield businesses in their efforts to make lasting improvements, which impact not only their own activities, but also benefit neighboring businesses as well,” said Jay Minkarah, president and CEO of DevelopSpringfield. “We are proud to be among the partners working to support and strengthen longtime and new business ventures in our city.” DevelopSpringfield’s Corridor Storefront Improvement Program was established in 2009 with the support of the city of Springfield and other private funders, to enhance the visual appeal of State and Main streets while providing assistance to businesses making investments in these two key corridors within the city. For more information on CSIP, visit www.developspringfield.com and click on ‘programs,’ or contact Minkarah at (413) 209-8808 or [email protected].

More Than 140 Become U.S. Citizens at Ceremony in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently presented more than 140 candidates for naturalization to the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine Robertson administered the Oath of Allegiance to America’s newest citizens during a naturalization ceremony at the UMass Center at Springfield. Guests and speakers included Robertson; Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno; Daniel Montagna, director of Operations at the UMass Center at Springfield; and Luis Chaves, director of the USCIS Lawrence Field Office. The citizenship candidates originate from the following 44 countries: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Germany, Ghana, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Israel, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lithuania, Moldova, Morocco, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Somalia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vietnam. For more information on USCIS and its programs, visit www.uscis.gov.

State Legislation Establishes Workforce Investment Board

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker recently signed legislation establishing the Massachusetts Workforce Investment Board to improve the public workforce system and enhance regional economies around the Commonwealth by focusing on employers’ growing need for skilled workers. “With changes to the federal workforce-investment laws, we now have an opportunity as a state to redefine and reimagine how we create skill-building programs,” Baker said. “Creating strong regional economies by designing programs that meet the demands of workers and businesses in each region is important to driving economic growth and new job opportunities for our residents.” Required by federal law and currently defined by state statute, the Massachusetts Workforce Development Board advises the governor and the secretary of Labor and Workforce Development with the mission to build a strong workforce system aligned with state education policies and economic-development goals. “To help people find good jobs, we are flipping the model to be demand-driven for employers, which, in turn, will help more people find jobs that suit their skill sets,” Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Ronald Walker II said. “We need to create a system that better meets the needs of employers who struggle to find talented workers.” The legislation, “An Act Establishing a State Workforce Development Board,” is based on a bill introduced Baker in June reconstituting the state’s Workforce Investment Board, reducing its membership from 65 members to 33, and ensuring the makeup of its membership continues to comply with federal requirements under the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). WIOA was signed into law by President Obama on July 22, 2014, reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 after more than a decade to transform the nation’s workforce system, and to invest in a skilled workforce. The Workforce Development Board is charged with developing plans and policies, which are approved by the governor, to coordinate services through one-stop career centers and workforce boards. The board also issues policy recommendations to align the public workforce system and improve performance accountability, and will develop strategies to promote workforce participation of women, people of color, veterans, and people with disabilities across industry sectors.

Unemployment Rates Down in Massachusetts

BOSTON — Seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates are down in all labor markets in the state, as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics compared to October 2014, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported. During the month of October, seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates went down in eight labor market areas, increased in six areas, and remained the same in 10 other areas of the state. Twelve areas added jobs over the month, with the largest gains in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Springfield, Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, and Worcester areas. The Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford area had no change in its jobs level over the month, while seasonal losses occurred in the Barnstable and Lynn-Saugus-Marblehead areas. In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for October remained at 4.5%. Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.6% for the month of October. The unemployment rate is down 0.9% over the year. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed an 11,000-job gain in October and an over-the-year gain of 80,600 jobs. Meanwhile, the New England Information Office of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released New England and state unemployment numbers for October 2015. The New England unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.6% in October. One year ago, the New England jobless rate was higher, at 5.6%. The U.S. jobless rate was essentially unchanged from September (5.0%).

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

David Nixon says Texas Roadhouse expects to open soon on Route 9

David Nixon says Texas Roadhouse expects to open soon on Route 9, one of several new businesses that went through with their plans even after a moratorium on new natural-gas hookups.

Officials in Hadley recently met with a developer to go over some technical zoning issues for a new retail establishment he hopes to build in town.

Town Administrator David Nixon said it’s one of many projects that are underway or on the drawing board, and a combination of factors make Hadley a great place for a business to grow and flourish.

“We have low property taxes, a stable single tax rate, affordable water and sewer utilities, appropriate zoning, and good access to transportation,” he told BusinessWest. “The town is in a strong financial position and has a AA+ rating from Standard & Poor’s, so as a package Hadley is an attractive place for businesses.”

However, last spring Berkshire Gas issued a moratorium on new or expanded service in Hampshire and Franklin counties due to a lack of pipeline capacity, which led town officials to become concerned that the decision would impact economic-development potential, not to mention a number of projects that had been started but were not complete.

Nixon said he took a proactive stance and voiced his concerns when he met with Berkshire Gas representatives as well as state Rep. John Scibak, chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, and state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg to talk about possible consequences of the moratorium.

“You don’t know what will happen when a major energy provider tells you, ‘sorry, there is no more,’” Nixon said, adding that the decision affects all towns in both counties. “But we have been very pleased that it hasn’t caused a slowdown in economic development in Hadley. Companies are continuing to build here; they are using propane instead of natural gas.”

Indeed, Bob Bolduc said the lack of the energy source did not hinder progress on a new, $6 million Super Pride station and 6,000-square-foot convenience store being built on Route 9 that can be seen immediately upon crossing the Calvin Coolidge Bridge into Hadley.

“Route 9 has a high traffic count, and the visibility of the site is excellent,” Bolduc said, explaining that Pride accumulated 4.5 acres of the choice property over a period of several years and nine structures, including the former Aqua Vitae restaurant and several houses being demolished to make way for the new facility that will occupy two acres.

“Although we were disappointed that we couldn’t have natural gas, a large propane tank will be satisfactory because it’s what we have in Southwick, Belchertown, and Palmer,” he noted.

Other commercial construction projects that have moved forward since the moratorium include a new, 7,163-square-foot Texas Roadhouse which is nearly finished; a 6,192-square-foot Advanced Auto Parts store; a new, 10,000-square-foot mall containing five storefronts that will be known as Mill Valley Commons, which is expected to open in February or March; and American River Nutrition, a manufacturing firm that makes vitamin E and is building a 24,192-square-foot plant on Venture Way, expected to open sometime in the near future.

“They had all planned to heat with natural gas, but switched to propane,” said Building Commissioner Tim Neyhart, explaining that piping designed for natural gas has been modified accordingly.

Development of East Street Commons, which consists of 32 new, affordable, and energy-efficient single-story homes for people 55 and older, was also affected by the moratorium. “They had to decide whether to continue building, and it drastically slowed down the project because the developer has to change every unit,” Neyhart said, adding that natural gas pipes do exist on East Street, and if the moratorium is lifted, people could tie into them in the future.

For this, the latest installment in its Community Spotlight series, BusinessWest looks at how neither the natural-gas moratorium nor anything else has failed to slow the pace of progress in this farming community turned retail mecca situated strategically between Northampton and Amherst.

What’s in Store?

Bolduc told BusinessWest that navigating the state permitting process for his project has taken took two years and cost $200,000, which is typical for a new gas station on a state highway because a bevy of environmental and traffic studies must be undertaken to ensure the facility won’t affect endangered plants, endangered species, or their natural habitats.

But it is finally complete, and although construction will not begin until spring, when it is complete, the new Pride complex will be among the largest in the region, with a drive-up window for coffee and a Subway restaurant with a seating area inside.

“We’ve applied for a license to sell beer and wine, which Pride does in five other stores,” Bolduc continued, adding that the company is working closely with the UMass Campus and Community Coalition to Reduce High Risk Drinking. The organization’s efforts are highlighted on a billboard that went up in late October near the Calvin Coolidge Bridge that bears the group’s website and the message “Working Together to Prevent Underage and Dangerous Drinking.”

“It’s an impressive group, and they have a lot of good ideas about where to place alcohol in the store, as well as the signage for it, and the optimal hours of operation,” said Bolduc. “We will be their poster child; it’s a first for a business to roll up their sleeves and do proactive work based on their recommendations.”

The Pride complex is one of many initiatives underway or in the planning stages, said Nixon, adding that the town is taking a proactive stance to reduce energy costs and officials are supporting projects related to alternative energy.

They include a new solar farm on Mill River Road built by Nexamp that is expected to be operational by the end of the month. He said the town offered Nexamp the option of making payments in lieu of taxes over a period of 20 years, which will increase by about 2% annually.

“It helps everyone avoid a roller-coaster ride. If we collected taxes right away, we would get a lot of money up front before they started making much, but as their property and equipment depreciated, we would get a lot less,” Nixon explained, adding that another solar farm that was completed by Nexamp about two years ago subsidizes 70% of the town’s municipal power at a 21% discount and Nexamp has agreed to subsidize the remaining 30% at a 16% discount.

“The town spends $225,000 annually on electricity, so it will be a significant savings,” he noted.

In addition, Hampshire College plans to build a solar farm in Hadley to power its buildings, and town officials are working out a pilot agreement with the institution.

“We also partnered with the Hampshire Council of Governments and were able to get a three-year extension on a fixed rate for municipal electricity. So we are looking at a stable cost that will be discounted by the two solar farms, above and beyond any conservation measures we take,” Nixon continued.

In other news, the Municipal Building Committee is working to renovate old structures, and progress has been made on that front. Asbestos flooring in Town Hall was removed and replaced during the summer, and lighting in the building was improved.

Nixon said Town Hall operations were moved to the public-safety complex during the six weeks it took to complete the project.

“We used the temporary move as an exercise related to our emergency-management plan,” he noted. “Outside of a few technical issues, it went very smoothly, and the issues were documented so know what works, what doesn’t, and what changes we need to made for a real emergency.”

There are also plans to install new front doors on the facility and new roofs on the three buildings — the senior center, public-safety complex, and garage used by the Department of Public Works — which is all being paid for with local funding.

And although cutting costs, making improvements to municipal buildings, and fostering economic growth is important, Hadley has no plans to ignore its agricultural history. In fact, the town recently implemented a Farmland Preservation Agreement, and is working to transfer property-development rights to preserve farmland that is put up for sale.

“We’re in the process of buying 100 acres through a partnership with the state,” Nixon said, adding that this land will be protected from development. “Hadley leads the Commonwealth in open-space preservation; we have 3,000 acres of preserved land, not counting state forests, which speaks to food security and natural-habitat preservation. It’s important because farming is a lifeway and part of our heritage.”

Hadley has also done millions of dollars of infrastructure work over the past year. “We’ve been working on culverts, bridges, roads, and sewer and water lines. Two existing pumping stations were refurbished at a cost of $1.86 million, in addition to $182,000 spent on the design and engineering,” Nixon said. “And we’re working on a state-funded culvert project that will cost $900,000, and replacing water and sewer lines at a cost of $377,000 and $240,000.”

Moving Forward

Hadley is doing well in terms of economic growth, and the prospects for more in the year ahead look good.

“I’m seeing solid growth,” Nixon said. “There is still commercial land left to build on and places that can be rebuilt, which is what Pride is doing on the land near the bridge. About 21,000 vehicles travel along Route 9 every day, and businesses there provide employment as well as goods and services that people want and need: food, entertainment, gardening centers, movie theaters, dining facilities, a pet motel, and commodities that range from sporting goods to electronics. Overall, Hadley is an attractive place to do business.”

The town’s master plan is being updated, and surveys, focus groups, and public hearings have been held to get public input. “It should be completed in another year and will have a lot to say about housing, zoning, roads, population, and land preservation,” Nixon noted.

Which will all add up to change that officials believe will make Hadley an even more vibrant town in the years to come.

 

Hadley at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1661
Population: 5,013  (2011)
Area: 24.7 square miles
County: Hampden
Residential Tax Rate: $11.15
Commercial Tax Rate: $11.15
Median Household Income: $51,851 (2010)
Family Household Income: $61,897 (2010)
Type of government: Open Town Meeting, Board of Selectmen
Largest Employers: Super Stop & Shop; Evaluation Systems Group Pearson; Elaine Center at Hadley; Home Depot; Lowe’s Home Improvement
* Latest information available

Daily News

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation yesterday establishing the Massachusetts Workforce Investment Board to improve the public workforce system and enhance regional economies around the Commonwealth by focusing on employers’ growing need for skilled workers.

“With changes to the federal workforce-investment laws, we now have an opportunity as a state to redefine and reimagine how we create skill-building programs,” Baker said. “Creating strong regional economies by designing programs that meet the demands of workers and businesses in each region is important to driving economic growth and new job opportunities for our residents.”

Required by federal law and currently defined by state statute, the Massachusetts Workforce Development Board advises the governor and the secretary of Labor and Workforce Development with the mission to build a strong workforce system aligned with state education policies and economic-development goals.

“To help people find good jobs, we are flipping the model to be demand-driven for employers, which, in turn, will help more people find jobs that suit their skill sets,” Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Ronald Walker II said. “We need to create a system that better meets the needs of employers who struggle to find talented workers.”

The legislation, “An Act Establishing a State Workforce Development Board,” is based on a bill introduced Baker in June reconstituting the state’s Workforce Investment Board, reducing its membership from 65 members to 33, and ensuring the makeup of its membership continues to comply with federal requirements under the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). WIOA was signed into law by President Obama on July 22, 2014, reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 after more than a decade to transform the nation’s workforce system, and to invest in a skilled workforce.

The Workforce Development Board is charged with developing plans and policies, which are approved by the governor, to coordinate services through one-stop career centers and workforce boards. The board also issues policy recommendations to align the public workforce system and improve performance accountability, and will develop strategies to promote workforce participation of women, people of color, veterans, and people with disabilities across industry sectors.

Briefcase Departments

MGM Springfield Outlines Evolving Plans for Casino Design

SPRINGFIELD — MGM Resorts recently detailed how and why the MGM Springfield design has evolved over the last four months. In a public presentation at CityStage in downtown Springfield, MGM executives, led by President Bill Hornbuckle, walked hundreds of attendees through the enhanced design plan, highlighting changes that allow for both design and operational efficiencies. The late-afternoon forum was hosted by Mayor Domenic Sarno and his economic-development team, led by Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy. “We are very proud of MGM Springfield’s improved design,” Hornbuckle said. “Our commitment to the city of Springfield, the region, and the Commonwealth has never wavered. Today, I am hopeful that people will see it has only gotten stronger. We are as ready as we have ever been to help return downtown Springfield to its glory days.” The MGM team presented a detailed comparison of commitments in the May 2013 host-community agreement and the new design plan, with an amenity layout resulting in a less than 1% adjustment in square footage to be experienced by customers. While some amenities, such as the child-care facility and retail, have grown in size, other operational and back-of-the-house spaces were reduced through design efficiencies. A redesign was made public earlier this fall when MGM Springfield announced it was moving the 250-room hotel along Main Street and market-rate apartments off-site. With the changes, MGM hopes to further engage Main Street while promoting ancillary development opportunities with off-site market-rate apartments. MGM is currently negotiating the purchase of 195 State St., the former Springfield School Department headquarters, to move forward with a housing redevelopment at that property. Brian Packer, MGM’s vice president of construction and development, joined Hornbuckle on stage, giving a construction update. Packer said that the company already has spent more than $23 million on MGM Springfield construction and employed 675 construction workers. Many of those workers were involved in the renovation of the new Mission on Mill Street, providing an updated, secure facility that will house a rehabilitation program, giveaway center, and business offices. Additionally, Packer laid out a sequence of construction events that will lead up to the September 2018 opening. The company estimates it will now cost more than $950 million to open MGM Springfield. Original estimates were expected to exceed $860 million, including capitalized interest and land-related costs. “MGM Springfield is not only the largest development project Western Massachusetts has ever seen, it is starting to rival the investment of the most-talked-about about development projects in the Commonwealth,” said Michael Mathis, MGM Springfield president. “We developed this presentation to provide transparency on our process. The people of Western Massachusetts want to be excited about the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that is MGM Springfield. We know maintaining a level of positive energy is our responsibility. Major demolition, large contract awards, and exciting opportunities to get involved are all part of the next phase, which will start very soon.” MGM is scheduled to present a comprehensive cost and design analysis to the Mass. Gaming Commission on Dec. 3. The mayor and City Council must still approve the updated site plans before MGM can go forward with its design-approval process.

Massachusetts Gains 11,000 Jobs in October

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate remained at 4.6% in October, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced Thursday. The preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate Massachusetts added 11,000 jobs in October. The largest over-the-month job gains occurred in the education and health services; professional, scientific, and business services; and other services sectors. Year-to-date, Massachusetts has added 62,800 jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised preliminary job estimates for September that originally indicated Massachusetts lost 7,100 jobs. BLS revised estimates for September show the state lost 2,200 jobs. The October preliminary estimates show 3,396,900 Massachusetts residents were employed during the month, and 164,000 were unemployed, for a total labor force of 3,560,900. The labor force decreased by 8,700 from 3,569,600 in September, as 9,600 fewer residents were employed and 900 more residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell 0.9% from 5.5% in October 2014. There were 32,000 fewer unemployed persons over the year compared to October 2014. The October state unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 5.0% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Massachusetts continues to add jobs, and the labor market is strong. We frequently hear from employers that they have jobs to fill, which is a good position for the state to be in,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II said. The state’s labor-force-participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased 0.2% point to 64.7% over the month. The labor-force-participation rate over the year has decreased 0.8% compared to October 2014. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in professional, scientific, and business services; construction; other services; leisure and hospitality; and education and health services.

Daily News

BOSTON — Seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates are down in all labor markets in the state, as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics compared to October 2014, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported.

During the month of October, seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates went down in eight labor market areas, increased in six areas, and remained the same in 10 other areas of the state.

Twelve areas added jobs over the month, with the largest gains in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Springfield, Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, and Worcester areas. The Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford area had no change in its jobs level over the month, while seasonal losses occurred in the Barnstable and Lynn-Saugus-Marblehead areas.

In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for October remained at 4.5%.

Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.6% for the month of October. The unemployment rate is down 0.9% over the year. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed an 11,000-job gain in October and an over-the-year gain of 80,600 jobs.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate remained at 4.6% in October, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced Thursday.

The preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate Massachusetts added 11,000 jobs in October. The largest over-the-month job gains occurred in the education and health services; professional, scientific, and business services; and other services sectors. Year-to-date, Massachusetts has added 62,800 jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised preliminary job estimates for September that originally indicated Massachusetts lost 7,100 jobs. BLS revised estimates for September show the state lost 2,200 jobs.

The October preliminary estimates show 3,396,900 Massachusetts residents were employed during the month, and 164,000 were unemployed, for a total labor force of 3,560,900.

The labor force decreased by 8,700 from 3,569,600 in September, as 9,600 fewer residents were employed and 900 more residents were unemployed over the month.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell 0.9% from 5.5% in October 2014. There were 32,000 fewer unemployed persons over the year compared to October 2014. The October state unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 5.0% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Massachusetts continues to add jobs, and the labor market is strong. We frequently hear from employers that they have jobs to fill, which is a good position for the state to be in,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II said.

The state’s labor-force-participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased 0.2% point to 64.7% over the month. The labor-force-participation rate over the year has decreased 0.8% compared to October 2014.

The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in professional, scientific, and business services; construction; other services; leisure and hospitality; and education and health services.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) Workforce Development office will offer three Certified Fiber Optics Technician Courses starting Dec. 7.

The courses will cover a variety of topics for both those new to the field and experienced technicians. The Fiber Optic Training class combines theory and hands-on activities to prepare students to take the Certified Fiber Optic Technician exam sanctioned by the Fiber Optics Association. The exam is administered and graded during the final class.

Students will learn how to identify fiber types; recognize various connectors used in fiber installation; and install, terminate, splice, and properly test installed fiber cable to existing standards. The program explores the history and future of fiber optics and fiber optics capabilities, and basic testing and troubleshooting.

Anyone interested in becoming a Certified Fiber Optics Technician is highly encouraged to sign up. The course fee includes study materials and text book, a CD, exam fees, plus a one year membership to Fiber Optics Association. In addition, STCC will offer Certified Fiber Optic Specialist Outside Plant (CFOS/O), Certified Fiber Optics Splicing Specialist Course (CFOS/S) and Certified Fiber Optics Specialist in Testing & Maintenance (CFOS/T).

Daily News

On Wednesday, Nov. 4, Comcast Business will present the fifth annual Western Mass. Business Expo at the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield, produced by BusinessWest and the Healthcare News.

The day-long event is crammed with programming designed to promote awareness of the depth and breadth of the region’s economy and help business owners and managers better navigate the myriad challenges they face.

The day will get off to an entertaining start with the Springfield Regional Chamber’s October breakfast and keynote speaker Dan Kenary, CEO and co-founder of Harpoon Brewery, who will engage in a “casual conversation” with BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien. Later, at the luncheon hosted by the Professional Women’s Chamber, Alison Lands, senior manager in Deloitte’s Strategy & Operations practice, will present a program based on a report she co-authored and edited titled “Advanced to Advantageous: The Case for New England’s Manufacturing Revolution.” She will discuss the challenges facing this resilient, innovative sector, particularly a persistent skills gap and a lack of brand awareness, and how they present real opportunities for workforce development in New England.

Throughout the day, there will be informative seminars across four tracks: Sales & Marketing, Workforce Development, Hottest Trends, and Entrepreneurship. Also slated are robotics and machine-tooling demonstrations, a Technology Corridor, a Business Support Center, the ever-popular Pitch Contest staged by Valley Venture Mentors, the day-capping Expo Social (always a great networking opportunity), and much more.

Sponsors include Comcast Business, presenting sponsor; Health New England, Johnson & Hill Staffing Services, MGM Springfield, and Wild Apple Design, director-level sponsors; the Isenberg School of Business at UMass Amherst, education sponsor; 94.7 WMAS, media sponsor; Peerless Precision, Smith & Wesson, the NTMS, and the Larry A. Maier Memorial Educational Fund, robotics and manufacturing sponsors; and Meyers Brothers Kalicka, entrepreneur sponsor. For more information, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or visit www.businesswest.com.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 4.6% in September, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced Thursday.

The preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate Massachusetts lost 7,100 jobs in September. The job losses occurred in the education and health services; trade, transportation, and utilities; construction; and manufacturing sectors. However, year-to-date, Massachusetts has added 46,900 jobs.

The preliminary estimates show 3,406,700 Massachusetts residents were employed in September, and 163,100 were unemployed, for a total labor force of 3,569,800. The labor force decreased by 21,900 from 3,591,700 in August, as 17,200 fewer residents were employed and 4,600 fewer residents were unemployed over the month.

The statewide unemployment rate in August was 4.7%. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell 1.0% from 5.6% in September 2014. The September state unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 5.1% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The Massachusetts unemployment rate continues to decline. Although the state experienced job losses in September, the overall jobs picture is strong,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II said.

The state’s labor force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased 0.4% to 64.9% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has decreased 0.6% compared to September 2014.

September 2015 estimates show that 3,406,800 residents were employed, and 163,100 were unemployed. There were 35,400 fewer unemployed persons over the year compared to September 2014.

The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in professional, scientific, and business services; leisure and hospitality; and education and health services.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Advanced manufacturing in New England and the skills gap will be discussed as part of a national report produced by Deloitte Consulting, LLP and the New England Council at the Professional Women’s Chamber (PWC) Headline Luncheon at the Western Mass. Business Expo on Wednesday, Nov. 4, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the MassMutual Center.

Alison Lands, senior manager for Deloitte Consulting’s Strategy and Operations practice and co-author and editor of “Advanced to Advantageous: The Case for New England’s Manufacturing Revolution,” will present highlights of the report as well as the strength of this backbone industry and the skills-gap challenges facing it.

According to the report, the industry sector has evolved to encompass aerospace and defense, medical devices and biotechnology, complex electronics, precision machining and optics. Despite the difficulties of the recession, advanced manufacturing has proven to be a resilient sector of the economy and is poised for a revolution.

However, it faces numerous challenges. It no longer relies on unskilled labor but rather requires a workforce skilled in technology, innovation and information. In addition to a generation of workers facing retirement, there exists a dearth of skilled workers qualified to work in manufacturing as well as an underskilled labor pool to fill available job vacancies within the industry. In addition, the report notes, the industry “suffers from a lack of brand awareness that keeps talent at arm’s length from meaningful employment opportunities.”

Lands will discuss the evolution of the industry, the challenges associated with such a skills gap, and the opportunities that New England can capitalize on to serve as accelerators for growth.

With a background in economics and more than 15 years of experience in public administration and professional services, Lands partners with leaders of state, local, and regional agencies to achieve results in the areas of health and human services, economic and workforce development, disaster recovery and resiliency, and transportation.

She holds a master’s degree in public and economic policy with a concentration in urban policy from the London School of Economics, a master’s degree in public administration with a concentration in urban policy from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and a bachelor’s degree from Trinity University.

Prior to joining Deloitte Consulting, she served as the senior economic-development specialist for the city of San Antonio, Texas.

James Brett, president and CEO of the New England Council, will join Lands for the presentation, made possible by the office of U.S. Rep. Richard Neal.

Advance registration for the luncheon is suggested, the cost is $40 per person. While this luncheon is included in the PWC Headline Luncheon Season Pass, season pass holders are required to pre-register. Registrations may be made online at www.professionalwomenschamber.com or by e-mailing [email protected].

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate remained at 4.7% in August, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The new preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate Massachusetts gained 7,200 jobs in August, marking the 12th consecutive month of job gains. Year to date, Massachusetts has added 56,500 jobs.

Preliminary August estimates show the number of employed residents declined by 20,600 and the number of unemployed residents decreased by 2,500, reducing the labor force by 23,100.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell 0.9% from 5.6% in August 2014. The August state unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 5.1% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Massachusetts continues to add jobs that strengthen our economy, and the unemployment rate is holding steady, lower than the national average,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II said. “We recognize there are still more than 160,000 people looking for work, and are aligning strategies to better help them find employment.”

The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased 0.5% to 65.3%. The labor-force participation rate over the year has decreased 0.1% compared to August 2014.

August 2015 estimates show that 3,424,000 residents were employed and 167,500 were unemployed. There were 33,200 fewer unemployed persons over the year compared to August 2014. The largest private-sector percentage job gains over the year were in professional, scientific, and business services; construction; and information.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development was awarded a $2.9 million federal grant to expand apprenticeship opportunities in high-growth industries in Massachusetts.

The American Apprenticeship Grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor, will enable the state to help 300 residents gain apprenticeship training in industries with a growing demand for new employees, such as healthcare, technology, and advanced manufacturing.

The funds will support the Massachusetts Apprenticeship Initiative (MAI) to increase the number of apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship opportunities in those industries. There are more than 7,500 registered apprentices in the state in 2015.

“As many employers in Massachusetts struggle to find the skilled labor to fill available jobs, this grant will enable training for individuals in high-demand industries and provide more job opportunities for the people of the Commonwealth,” Gov. Charlie Baker said.

The U.S. Department of Labor awarded $175 million in American Apprenticeship Grants to 46 awardees across the nation to expand apprenticeships in high-growth industries. The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development will use the grant to build upon apprenticeship opportunities and address the skills gap for underserved residents.

“Our team worked incredibly hard to be awarded one of these highly competitive grants,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker, II, who chairs the Workforce Skills Cabinet. “These funds will help us in our mission to meet employers’ demands for highly skilled workers so they can continue to grow their businesses. Businesses cannot grow if they cannot find enough skilled workers.”

Created by the governor through an executive order, the Workforce Skills Cabinet’s goal is to align education, economic- and workforce-development programs, and policies to increase opportunities for training and employment for residents while helping businesses meet their growth needs.

Daily News

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Community College’s (BCC) Office of Community Education & Workforce Development, in collaboration with Greylock Insurance Agency, will offer a new workshop, “Introduction to Insurance” (INS 21), starting in September.

The workshop, which will run on Tuesdays from 6 to 9 p.m. from Sept. 22 through Nov. 10, will explore the many diverse careers in the insurance industry, from IT to marketing.

Students will identify and describe the basic principles of insurance as well as how insurance jobs relate to one another, and will become familiar with the principles that underlie property and liability insurance. The course will also introduce students to insurance contracts, marketing, underwriting, claims adjustment, risk management, and general policy provisions.

The course, which will be taught by Sharon MacEachern, assistant vice president of Operations at Greylock Insurance, is made possible through Greylock Insurance Agency and its matching grant donation from Arbella Insurance Foundation. The cost per participant is $240 and includes all materials. Classes will be held in Melville Hall (Room 201) on BCC’s main campus in Pittsfield.

“Introduction to Insurance” is the first of three eight-week courses required to earn an AINS (associate in general insurance) designation. Participants who complete all three courses will also receive a certificate of completion from Berkshire Community College. To register, visit www.berkshirecc.edu/workshops or call (413) 236-2127.

Features

Save the Date

WMBExpo 2015 LOGO

The Western Mass. Expo, set for Nov. 4 at the MassMutual Center, will be the fifth produced by BusinessWest.

The first four have constituted what Kate Campiti, the magazine’s associate publisher, described as both an effective way for BusinessWest to expand its mission, and an intriguing learning experience on a number of levels.

Regarding the former, she said the show has become another way in which the magazine has moved beyond the printed word to serve the region’s evolving business community. As for the latter, she said that phrase ‘learning experience’ applies not only to the art and science of event planning and execution, but also, quite literally, to understanding more about the players and issues shaping the scene locally.

“Over the first four years, we’ve learned not only what area business owners and managers want and expect from the year’s biggest business-to-business event,” she noted, “but also about how quickly and profoundly the world of business — and this region — are changing, and how people have to be diligent to avoid being left behind.”

Lessons from those first four years will be applied to the fifth show, she went on, adding that organizers are still putting together pieces to the show, and those basic goals of informing attendees and helping participating businesses become better able to compete will shape the day’s schedule of events and programs.

Several components of the roster of offerings are known — from the return of the Pitch Contest staged by Valley Venture Mentors to demonstrations featuring participants in a robotics program at Pathfinder Regional High School, to seminars on a wide range of topical issues — and others will come together over the next few weeks, said Campiti, adding that details and updates can be found at wmbexpo.com.

Fast Facts

What: The Western Mass. Business Expo
When: Nov. 4
Where: The MassMutual Center, Springfield
Events and Activities: Breakfast hosted by the ACCGS; lunch hosted by the Professional Women’s Chamber; Show Floor Theater presentations; informational seminars; Pitch Contest; matchmaking opportunities; and more.
Exhibitor Information: Booth sizes and rates are: 20×20 showcase unfurnished: $2,250; 20×20 showcase furnished: $2,400; 10×20 double unfurnished: $1,250; 10×20 double furnished: $1,350; 10×10 corner unfurnished: $850; 10×10 corner furnished: $925; 10×10 standard unfurnished: $750; 10×10 standard furnished: $825.
For More Information: Call (413) 781-8600, or visit www.wmbexpo.com


The expo will again be presented by Comcast Business, which has been the show’s lead sponsor since BusinessWest began producing it in 2011. Director-level sponsors are Health New England, Johnson & Hill Staffing Services, MGM Springfield, and Wild Apple Design. The Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst is the education sponsor, 94.7 WMAS is the media sponsor, and Elms College is the information-center sponsor.

The day-long Expo will kick off with a breakfast hosted by the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield (featuring keynote speaker Dan Kenary, CEO of Harpoon Brewery) and conclude with the Expo Social, one of the year’s most popular networking events. In between will be a lunch hosted by the Professional Women’s Chamber, more than 150 exhibitors, opportunities for ‘matchmaking,’ and myriad chances to network, learn and gain exposure.

The learning component has been an important part of the Expo since the beginning, she went on, adding that this year’s edition will no exception. The seminar’s tracks — sales & marketing, workforce development, and ‘hottest trends’ — speak to what’s happening in business today and also to a desire by Expo organizers to provide attendees and exhibitors with insight they can take back to their offices and plants the next day.

“Today, the biggest issue facing business owners and managers is their workforce,” said Campiti. “People want to know how to put a great team together, how to keep together, how to identify talent, and how to cultivate talent, and we’ll be putting together a track of seminars that will help them do all that and more.

“Meanwhile, two of the biggest challenges remain marketing your business and selling your products and services,” she went on. “And in many respects, the landscape is changing in both realms.”

Sponsorship opportunities are still available, said Campiti, with many forms of exposure provided for those who attach their names to the show. Those interested in exhibiting should call (413) 781-8600 or visit www.wmbexpo.com.

Briefcase Departments

State Economy Expands Robustly in Q2, UMass Journal Reports

AMHERST — Massachusetts real gross domestic product grew at an estimated annual rate of 5.4% in the second quarter of 2015 according to the MassBenchmarks Current Economic Index, released today by MassBenchmarks, the journal of the Massachusetts economy published by the UMass Donahue Institute in collaboration with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. U.S. real gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 2.3%, according to the advance estimate of the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Based on the latest available information, it’s estimated that, in the first quarter of 2015, the state economy expanded at a 2.1% annualized rate while the nation grew at a 0.6% annualized rate. In the second quarter, the state’s economy rebounded strongly from the weather-induced slowdown of the first quarter, with robust growth in employment and spending. Massachusetts payroll employment expanded at a 3.1% annual rate in the second quarter, nearly twice as fast as in the first quarter, when employment grew at a 1.7% annualized rate. Nationally, payroll employment grew at a 1.7% annual rate in the second quarter, down from 2.2% in the first quarter. The state’s unemployment rate fell from 4.8% in March to 4.6% in June, while the U.S. unemployment rate fell from 5.5% to 5.3% during the same period. The state’s unemployment rate has reached pre-recession levels. “The rising tide appears to finally be lifting the boats of the long-term unemployed, even though conditions for these workers remain difficult,” noted Dr. Alan Clayton-Matthews, MassBenchmarks senior contributing editor and associate professor of Economics and Public Policy at Northeastern University, who compiles and analyzes the Current and Leading Indexes. The broader U-6 measure of unemployment, which includes part-time workers who want full-time work and those who are unemployed but marginally attached to the labor force, declined significantly in the second quarter. “For the 12-month period ending in June, the Massachusetts U-6 rate fell to 10.4%, a 0.6-percentage-point drop from the 12-month period ending in March,” he noted. “In June, Current Population Survey-based estimates put the Massachusetts U-6 rate at 9.7%. The corresponding U.S. rate in June was 10.5%.” Massachusetts income and spending growth was also very strong in the second quarter. Based on withholding tax revenues, state wage and salary income in the second quarter grew at a 4.8% annual rate, following growth of 4.8% in the first quarter. Consumer and business spending on goods subject to the state’s regular sales and motor-vehicle sales tax increased dramatically in the aftermath of the snowiest winter on record. In the second quarter, spending grew at a whopping 19.3% annual rate, following 1.8% growth in the first quarter. The ability and willingness of households and businesses to spend reflects the underlying strength of the state economy and bodes well for future growth, the report asserts. The MassBenchmarks Leading Economic Index for June is 4.8%, and the three-month average for April through June is 5.0%. The leading index is a forecast of the growth in the current index over the next six months, expressed as an annual rate. Thus, it indicates that the economy is expected to grow at an annualized rate of 4.8% over the next six months (through December 2015), suggesting that the state’s solid economic performance will continue through the rest of the year. It is projecting real state gross-product growth of 5.1% in the third quarter and 4.8% in the fourth quarter. However, while the state economy appears to be in the midst of a solid economic expansion that positions the Commonwealth for solid future growth, risks to the outlook remain. Weak international economic conditions and geopolitical uncertainty continue to weigh heavily on the economic outlook for Massachusetts and the nation. The strong dollar, combined with sluggish growth in Europe and slowing growth in China, has had a significant impact on state and national exports. For the first five months of this year, Massachusetts merchandise exports are down 14.0% as compared to the first five months of 2014, while U.S. merchandise exports are down 5.2% during the same time period.

Markey, Delegation Call for Greater Access to Opioid Overdose Prevention Treatment

WASHINGTON — In a letter sent Wednesday to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and eight members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation called on the agency to take action to support broader access to the opioid-overdose-prevention treatment naloxone. There has been much documented success preventing fatalities with the use of naloxone by medical professionals and first responders, and there has been a recent movement to expand access to the overdose treatment for use by trained community and family members, who are most likely to be present during an opioid overdose. More than 1,000 people died of an opioid overdose last year in Massachusetts. The Mass. Department of Public Health (MDPH), which collects rescue reports on episodes where non-medical bystanders and community members use naloxone supplied by MDPH, has documented 5,000 rescues, with more than 1,000 of them reported in 2015 so far. Joining Markey on the letter are U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Reps. Michael Capuano, Katherine Clark, Jim McGovern, Seth Moulton, William Keating, Joe Kennedy, and Richard Neal. “The routine practice of distributing naloxone or co-prescribing naloxone with prescriptions for opioid painkillers may help to get naloxone into households that may otherwise not have easy access to this life-saving antidote,” write the lawmakers in the letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell. “Thousands of Americans who are currently taking prescription opioid painkillers, whether legitimately for the treatment of pain or illicitly without doctor supervision, could potentially be saved from accidental overdose by having wider access to naloxone.” In the letter, the lawmakers call on HHS to explore issuing recommendations that could be used to institute best practices for co-prescribing naloxone with opioid painkillers and examine establishing demonstration programs, encouraging federally funded health centers to adopt policies for co-prescribing, and reducing payment barriers for naloxone coverage and reimbursement.

Home Sales Rise in June in Pioneer Valley

SPRINGFIELD — The Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley reported that single-family home sales in June were up 4.9% compared to the same time last year. The median price, meanwhile, dropped 1.5%, from $204,000 last year at this time to $201,000 this year, as first-time buyers continue to come into the market. The association reported that, across the Pioneer Valley, sales in June 2015 totaled 552, compared to 526 a year ago. In Hampden County, sales were up 11.4% over the same month last year (370 in 2015 and 332 in 2014), with the median price down 2.2%. In Hampshire County, meanwhile, sales remained the same (135 both years), with the median price down 4.6%. In Franklin County, though, sales were down 22% (42 in 2015 and 54 in 2014), and median prices were up 8.8%.

Unemployment Rates Rise in Most Areas

BOSTON — The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) reported that seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates went down in two areas during the month of June and increased in 22 areas in the state. According to data from U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Nantucket and Vineyard Haven were the two areas where unadjusted unemployment rates dropped in June. Eleven of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains in June, with the largest gains in Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Barnstable, Framingham, Pittsfield, and Lawrence-Methuen, as well as Salem, N.H. Compared to June 2014, unemployment rates are down in all labor markets measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The EOLWD also reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 4.6% for the second consecutive month. The unemployment rate is down 1.1% over the year. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 10,500-job gain in June and an over-the-year gain of 72,700 jobs.

Daily News

BOSTON — On July 21, The Equal Pay Coalition hosted a press conference and rally in support of the Equal Pay Bill at the State House. The coalition was joined by legislators, the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators and officials in highlighting the importance of passing the Equal Pay Bill. They stood in solidarity with members of the public and rallied the crowd to voice their support and join them in Gardner Auditorium for the hearing of the bill before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. “I am pleased that the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators has chosen Equal Pay as its priority legislation this session,” said Senator Anne Gobi (D – Spencer). “In 1923, Representative Susan Walker Fitzgerald was the first woman elected to the Massachusetts legislature and she was the first legislator to push for equal pay. We have been talking about this for far too long – now is the time to get something done.” Said Attorney General Maura Healey, “it’s 2015 and it’s long past time for employers in this state and across the country to pay women the same wage for the same work. When a women’s pay falls behind, families fall behind,” “We need to do better, because this isn’t just a women’s issue, it’s a core economic security challenge for our families and for our state.” Treasurer Deb Goldberg agreed. “Wage equality is not just a women’s issue,” she said. “It’s a family issue and it’s an economic imperative that affects the health and well-being of our entire state.” The Equal Pay Bill seeks to bridge the wage gap in three main ways: demand equal pay for comparable work, establish pay transparency, and require fairness in hiring practices.

Daily News

BOSTON — The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported Tuesday that seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates went down in two areas during the month of June and increased in 22 areas in the state. According to data from U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Nantucket and Vineyard Haven were the two areas where unadjusted unemployment rates dropped in June. Eleven of the 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains in June, with the largest gains in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Barnstable, Framingham, Pittsfield, and Lawrence-Methuen, and Salem, NH. Compared to June 2014, unemployment rates are down in all labor markets measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last week, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 4.6% for the second consecutive month. The unemployment rate is down 1.1% over the year. The statewide seasonally adjusted jobs estimate showed a 10,500 job gain in June and an over-the-year gain of 72,700 jobs.

In order to compare the statewide rate to local unemployment rates, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for June was 4.9%, up five-tenths of a percentage point from last month. The unadjusted unemployment rates and job estimates for the labor market areas reflect seasonal fluctuations and therefore may show different levels and trends than the statewide seasonally adjusted estimates.
The labor force, unemployment rates and jobs estimates for Massachusetts is based on different statistical methodology specified by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Daily News

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration will reduce the assessment employers pay to the state on workers’ compensation insurance policies by 0.05%, offering companies some tax relief.

For fiscal year 2016, employers will pay an assessment on their total insurance premium of 5.75%, which is remitted to the state. The previous rate was 5.8%. The new rate went into effect July 1.

The Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) administers the workers’ compensation insurance system and annually establishes assessment rates.

“After reviewing the current assessment rate and the economic outlook for next year, we recommended lowering the rate. This will further support businesses, and anything we can do to support businesses and spur job growth is a very good thing,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II.

The Massachusetts workers’ compensation system is in place to make sure workers are protected by insurance if they are injured on the job or develop a work-related illness. Under this system, all employers in Massachusetts are required by state law to carry workers’ compensation insurance covering their employees, including themselves if they are an employee of their company.

The insurance pays for any reasonable and necessary medical treatment for job-related injury or illness, pays compensation for lost wages after the first five calendar days of full or partial disability, and in some cases provides retraining for employees who qualify.

DIA is funded through assessments on workers’ compensation policies and self-insurance programs for employers operating in Massachusetts. In addition, DIA collects statutory fines and fees. DIA also acts as a court system responsible for resolving disputed workers’ compensation claims, overseeing and adjudicating about 12,000 disputed cases each year.

Daily News

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 4.6% in May, a 0.1% decrease from the previous month, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced Thursday. The unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in the state since December 2007.

The new preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate Massachusetts gained 7,400 jobs in May, marking the ninth consecutive month of jobs gains.

Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell 1.2% from 5.8% in May 2014. The unemployment rate in Massachusetts peaked in September 2009 at 8.8%. The May state unemployment rate is 0.9% lower than the national rate of 5.5% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised upward its April job figure, reporting the state gained 11,200 jobs, instead of 10,100, which the agency reported last month.

“We have had solid job growth in the last three months, with approximately 30,000 jobs added in the state,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II said. “As more jobs are created, more people are coming back into the labor market.”

Over the month, jobs were up 7,400, with a private-sector gain of 7,100. Since May 2014, jobs grew by 70,600, with 59,300 private-sector job gains. Sectors that gained jobs over the month include construction, which added 3,500 jobs; retail trade, 1,500 jobs; and wholesale trade, 1,500 jobs. Transportation and warehousing lost 500 jobs. Manufacturing gained 600 jobs, and financial activities gained 700 jobs.

Education and health services and professional, scientific, and business services had the largest job gains over the year.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — The Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, a business association devoted to promoting and improving the region through economic progress, public advocacy, and workforce development, will host an anniversary gala to celebrate 125 years of commitment to growing local prosperity.

The event will take place on Friday, June 19 from 6 p.m. to midnight at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. The celebration will kick off at 6 p.m. with a cocktail hour on the patio, featuring a presentation of historic photos and images of the city of Holyoke and the chamber. A cash bar, complimentary guest photos, and music by the Floyd Patterson Band will continue to entertain guests until midnight.

“For more than a century, the chamber has had a positive effect on the business community, while also setting the foundation for long-term economic growth within our region,” said Greater Holyoke Chamber President Kathleen Anderson. “Now, 125 years later, we can look back at our amazing history that has had a powerful impact on so many lives. And while we are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead, we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge all those who have supported our mission and contributed to making our organization a valuable voice for our members, local business owners, and entrepreneurs.”

Founded in 1890, the chamber has been a partner for trade and industry in the region through community building, workforce development, and economic development.

“Throughout its existence, the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce has excelled at strengthening the foundation of our community, and I am confident that our organization will continue to make Greater Holyoke a more prosperous and thriving community for generations to come,” said Richard Clark, chairman of the chamber’s board of directors.

Tickets to the gala cost $80 per person, with formal attire and advance registration required. To RSVP by June 15 or for more information, visit holyokechamber.com/events or contact Wanda Zabawa, the chamber’s business manager, at (413) 534-3376 or [email protected].

Daily News

BOSTON — The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported that the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for April were down in all labor market areas over the month and over the year.

During April, all 15 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains. The largest job gains were in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Springfield, Barnstable, Worcester, and Framingham areas. Since last April, 14 areas added jobs, with the largest percentage gains in the Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, Lynn-Saugus-Marblehead, Leominster-Gardner, Barnstable, Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, and Worcester areas.

In order to compare the statewide rate to the local unemployment rates, BLS estimates that the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate for April was 4.1%, down 0.9% from the March 2015 rate. Over the year, the statewide unadjusted rate was down 1.4% from the April 2014 rate of 5.5%.

Daily News

BOSTON — Massachusetts’ total unemployment rate dropped to 4.7% in April, a 0.1% decrease from the previous month, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced.

The new preliminary job estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate that Massachusetts gained 10,100 jobs in April, marking the eighth consecutive month of job gains.

BLS also revised upward its March job figure, reporting the state gained 12,100 jobs, instead of 10,500, which the agency originally reported last month.

Over the year, the state’s unemployment rate fell 1.1% from 5.8% in April 2014. January 2008 was the last time the state’s unemployment rate was at 4.7%. The state unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate of 5.4% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The state’s labor participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — increased 0.1% to 66.3%. The April labor participation rate is the highest since May 2010, and this is the third consecutive month there was an increase in the participation rate. Compared to April 2014, the labor participation rate increased 1.1% over the year.

“This is the seventh consecutive month we’ve seen a decrease in unemployment,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker said. “Many more residents are employed, and labor participation has increased again.”

April 2015 estimates show that 3,464,500 residents were employed and 169,400 were unemployed. There were 37,700 fewer unemployed persons over the year compared to April 2014.

Over the month, jobs were up 10,100, with a private-sector gain of 9,700. Since April 2014, jobs grew by 66,100, with 57,900 private-sector job gains. Education and health services and professional, scientific, and business services were the sectors with the largest job gains over the year.

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