Page 12 - BusinessWest May 2, 2022
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Saluting the Region’s Rising Stars
John Gormally [email protected]
• • • • •
George O’Brien [email protected]
Kate Campiti [email protected]
ADVERTISING CONSULTANTS Kate Campiti [email protected]
Kathleen Plante [email protected]
Mike Nasuti [email protected]
Christine Longhi [email protected]
MARKETING & EVENTS DIRECTOR Gina Lovotti [email protected] ••••• OFFICE MANAGER Cindy Sears [email protected]
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 It was 15 years ago — yes, time really does fly when you are having fun — when those of us at BusinessWest decided that the region was ready for a new and different kind of recogni-
tion program.
We decided it was time to bring needed attention to the rising
young stars in the region — those who are excelling in their chosen fields as well as in the broad realm of community service — and while doing so, inspire others to want to follow their lead.
Thus, the 40 Under Forty Program was born.
Over the past 15 years, we have introduced more than 600 women and men who all have different stories, but can be defined with that single word ‘leader.’ And these introductions are just the start of the ‘fun’ we mentioned at the top.
Indeed, we’ve also created the region’s biggest and best party and networking event. It has taken place every June (except for during COVID, of course) at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. There, gath- erings of 600-700 people have saluted classes of honorees, and,
in essence, celebrated the young talent that is so abundant in this region.
This year, we celebrate 15 years of 40 Under Forty and introduce our 16th class, which is like all the others in every respect.
It is deep with stories about people who have become stand- outs in their communities not just because of what they do, but because of the way they keep looking for new ways to make a posi- tive impact in this region. These are individuals who understand that it’s not enough to work or own a business in this region, but to also give back and try to improve quality of life in the place we call Western Mass.
People like Tessa Murphy-Romboletti, who has led EforAll
Holyoke/Epara Todos, but decided she wanted to do more in her hometown of Holyoke and last fall won an at-large seat on the City Council. And Joseph Kelley, who launched his own real estate firm, but has also been a force in the community, at levels ranging from support of Little League teams to creation of a program to support struggling businesses during the pandemic.
There’s also Veronice Santana, assistant district attorney in the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, who finds the time to men- tor those involved in Girls Inc. and act as a role model, showing them that no career is beyond their reach if they work hard. And Justin Roberts, vice president of Marketing at Country Bank, who founded Suit Up Springfield to provide professional attire to those who need it to take the next important step in their lives.
And then, there’s Sarah Calabrese, Resource Development direc- tor for the West Springfield Boys & Girls Club. She was a commu- nications intern with BusinessWest a decade ago, and remembers arranging the plaques at the 40 Under Forty event that year and thinking about how some day, she would like to have one of those with her name it. In six weeks or so, she will, in recognition not only of her work with the Boys & Girls Club, but also in the community and, especially her Rotary Club.
There are 35 more stories like this, starting on page A8. Each one is inspiring and uplifting.
This is what we had in mind 15 years ago when we took an idea — to shine a bright light on the young talent in this region — and made it reality.
Like the 640 stories we’ve told, this program, and the way it has inspired others, is something worth celebrating. v
  Getting Creative with ARPA Funds
Since the federal government announced the awarding of hun- dreds of millions of dollars in
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to cities and towns across our region, we have encouraged the use of imagination and foresight in the ongoing exercises
to determine how these monies will be spent.
Overall, we have urged communities to use funds from this unprecedented wind- fall to not only close gaps in budgets and fill in holes in roads — although both of those courses are needed in some cases — but to facilitate economic development and make projects that might have been undoable reality.
And we’ve seen several examples of this kind of thinking over the past few months, including two notable projects in Amherst and Springfield.
In Amherst, ARPA funds were used to help bring the new Drake live-performance venue to life (See related story p. 10). The initiative, which takes the name of a leg- endary bar that stood just a few blocks
from the Pleasant Street site of the new facility, will meet a long-recognized need to bring live entertainment to downtown Amherst. It should succeed not only in bringing people into Amherst from across the region and far beyond it, but also in inspiring more business development in the downtown area, especially in the broad hospitality sector.
This project would likely have happened without $750,000 in ARPA funds, but that expenditure certainly helped the project gain momentum and move forward to the much-anticipated grand opening late last month.
The same probably could not be said
of a different kind of project in Springfield, one to bring a Big Y Express Fresh Market to the site of a former CVS in Tower Square. This project needed some help to ‘pen-
cil,’ as they say in the development com- munity, and the $1 million grant from the city’s $128 million ARPA war chest made it doable.
The market, touted as a smaller version of a Big Y supermarket, will fill a recog-
nized need for such a facility in the city’s downtown, which is devoid of anything approaching a large food store. It will also be another intriguing addition to Tower Square, which has been completely trans- formed from the retail center it was a half century ago.
Indeed, the downtown landmark now hosts two colleges, a YMCA, and a brew- ery, in addition to its office tower, hotel, and several retail tenants. The new Big Y will bring something that has been mostly missing since the CVS left — foot traffic from the office towers downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, it will become an oasis in what is still largely a food desert in down- town Springfield.
These two projects show how ARPA monies can be used in creative ways to make important projects doable and stim- ulate economic development. We hope
to see other examples of how this historic windfall can change the landscape — in all kinds of ways. v
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