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    1. Legacy of Growth

      Legacy of Growth
      Sean Gray says Berkshire Bank has become adept at mergers in recent years — not only executing them, but choosing the right ones. “Acquisition is one of our core competencies. We’re very focused on growth,” said Gray, executive vice president of retail banking for the Pittsfield-based institution. Indeed, late last month, Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc., the bank’s parent company, completed the acquisition of Legacy Bancorp Inc., also based in Pittsfield, and merged the two banks under the Berkshire Bank banner. The deal leaves Berkshire Hills with more than $4 billion in assets and a branch network of 63 locations ...
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      Mentions: Berkshire Bank
    2. To a Higher Plane

      To a Higher Plane
      Like all financial institutions in the region, Chicopee Savings Bank is struggling to grow in a challenging environment marked by historically low interest rates, razor-thin margins, and unparalleled competition. Despite the hurdles, the institution has managed to grow market share, increase deposits, and, in general, position itself for when there is less turbulence.
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    3. Recovery in Slow Motion

      Recovery in Slow Motion
      Jeff Ciuffreda, president of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield, took a glass-half-full outlook on the current situation, as might be expected given his title, but he said that the growing level of uncertainty will certainly challenge the economy to make any significant gains over the last third of the year. “Core businesses, including manufacturers, seem to be holding their own, and there have been relatively few layoffs,” he said while describing the regional picture, adding quickly that Baystate’s workforce reduction and a smaller cutback at Hasbro earlier in the year have been the notable exceptions. And ...
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    4. Back to the Drawing Board

      Back to the Drawing Board
      LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification is the industry’s new buzz term, incorporating various energy-saving programs and environmentally sound practices and materials. There aren’t many who would argue against these design attributes, but is the certification plaque on the wall worth the price of admission? “Yes, clients are concerned with the overall cost of a project, and in many cases they are making the conscious decision to do the right thing,” Edgin said, referring specifically to two current clients at work on new police stations, in Northampton and at UMass Amherst.
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    5. The Vision Project

      The Vision Project
      There are many moving parts to the state Department of Higher Education’s Vision Project, but the bottom line is jobs, or, to be more precise, properly preparing individuals for the jobs that define a new, technology-centered economy. The Vision Project aligns all 29 public colleges and universities behind seven identified goals — from improving graduation rates to getting more people into math and science fields — and adds several layers of accountability.
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    6. Leadership Pioneer Valley

      Leadership Pioneer Valley
      Recognizing the need to identify and cultivate young leaders, area civic and economic development leaders have created an initiative called Leadership Pioneer Valley. As the name suggests, this is a regional program — covering Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties — crafted to take emerging and existing leaders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, immerse them in a program to build leadership skills and educate them on the Valley, and then provide them with opportunities to put what they’re learned to work. This is a program, said its recently appointed director, that will have benefits for participants and the region as ...
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    7. Sound Strategy

      Sound Strategy
      But along with all this potential there are issues and challenges, not only in Springfield, but in communities across the three-county (Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire) area served by the Community Foundation, said Ancrum, noting, among things, a clear need to create new sources of jobs, efforts to replace lost manufacturing companies, and a need to rebuild what he called the “economic infrastructure.” The sum of these challenges and the need for a coordinated response have been the primary motivators for the foundation taking big strides into the realm of community leadership, he continued, noting that this is now the third ...
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    8. Blown Away

      Blown Away
      At 4:45 on the afternoon of June 1, Joan Kagan was standing in the middle of Main Street in Springfield’s South End, talking with BusinessWest and staring up at what used to be the administration building for Square One, which she serves as president and CEO. Just a few moments earlier, and seemingly within no time at all after receiving word that a tornado was supposedly 10 minutes away, she was shepherding staff and children into the basement of the facility at 959 Main, where they essentially rode out the storm, with no real injuries to report.
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    9. Closing the Digital Divide

      Closing the Digital Divide
      It’s called Massachusetts 123, or M123 for short, the project to bring high-speed broadband to every corner of the Commonwealth, including historically underserved Western Mass. The scale of the initiative is immense, and the challenges are numerous, but there will be clear and immediate rewards from bringing the entire state into the 21st century.
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    10. Shedding Light on the Subject

      Shedding Light on the Subject
      Ron French calls it “an elegant solution to an horrific problem.” He’s talking about solar energy, and specifically referencing the benefits that a homeowner can expect to recoup, both financially and on a higher plane, from a switch to clean and green power. French is the President of the Wilton, Conn.-based Alteris Renewables, a company that is steadily harnessing the Northeast market’s demands for solar and wind-powered electricity
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      Mentions: Springfield
    11. Entrepreneurial Fuel

      Entrepreneurial Fuel
      It all started in 1931, with the leasing of a tiny gas station on Main Street in downtown Greenfield. Over the next eight decades, the company started by A.R. Sandri, later to be led by his son, William, and, today, grandson-in-law Tim Van Epps, has diversified into everything from heating oil to golf courses; from wood pellets and stoves to photovoltaic installations. The common threads among the generations are an entrepreneurial spirit, a willingness to take calculated risks, and an ability to anticipate needed services and then provide them.
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    12. Newer Alliance

      Newer Alliance
      NewAlliance Bank introduced itself to Western Mass. in 2007 after acquiring Westbank, and four years later, it has completed a merger with the larger, Buffalo, N.Y.-based First Niagara Bank. Such mergers are nothing new, but large institutions always enter Western Mass. knowing they must compete for business in a region that values its thriving array of community banks, all touting healthy balance sheets and a hometown touch.
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    13. An Accurate Gauge

      An Accurate Gauge
      More than 200 companies put their products and processes on display at the annual EASTEC show last month at the Big E. There were many local exhibitors, and most had something to say about the state of this sector and the challenges facing it. They relayed stories of relative health and vitality, but also concerns, especially about the daunting task of securing enough talented workers to keep the machines humming.
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    14. Profiles in Business

      Profiles in Business
      “I’ve given my definition of economic development to different groups over the years, and the more experienced I get, the more that definition morphs a little bit,” he explained. “Economic development, as I see it, is creating increasing investment in our region — and, ultimately, a city or town — that generates increased tax revenue to the municipality and the state and creates jobs; that’s my simple definition.
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    15. Brushes with Fame

      Brushes with Fame
      Mark Borsari didn’t have a number handy to quantity just how large the ‘twisted wire brush’ market is — so he qualified matters instead. “It’s big … much bigger than most people would think, certainly — twisted wire brushes are used everywhere,” said Borsari, president of Palmer-based Sanderson-MacLeod, which has made a name for itself in this somewhat obscure, yet intriguing corner of the manufacturing sector.
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    16. An Exciting New Chapter

      An Exciting New Chapter
      The first, coming up on June 21, will have a hard focus on the broad subject of literacy, and a very aggressive goal: collecting 5,000 books for a variety of child-literacy programs, including the Hasbro Summer Learning Initiative (HSLI), which works to bridge the gap in learning that occurs when many area young people leave school for the summer months. Other programs include Link to Libraries and Book It.
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    17. Outside the Box

      Outside the Box
      “Employers are trying to get more out of workers with less of a footprint than before in terms of space,” he explained. “I also think that, when many companies rightsized during this downturn, more was expected from the workers that remain. I also think there’s been some major shifts in the way we do business.” In addition, “the work stations are getting smaller because computers are getting smaller,” said Scott Montemerlo, account executive at the Lexington Group. “And they don’t need to have all the filing underneath.
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    18. The Importance of Summer Jobs

      For these reasons and many others, we hope that area businesses, through their own initiative or in concert with organizations like the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, find the means, the courage, the confidence, or whatever you choose to call it to add a body or two for the summer months. No, the economy isn’t as strong as most would like it be or thought it would be by this time, but bringing on summer help is important to this region’s overall vitality.
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      Mentions: Big Y Foods
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