November 18, 2013 at 09:45am
On the evening of October 27, the businesses of 206 Russell Street were changed forever as a fire engulfed their building which housed 12 small independent shops and 2 residences. While no one was hurt, all of the businesses suffered complete losses and were forced to consider rebuilding or moving on from their dreams.
Within days, hundreds of people began following a Facebook page dedicated to helping the victims of the fire. We immediately offered our support and help to Hadley Town Administrator David Nixon. A call went out for a group to house a fund for the victims. The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors determined that we needed to help. The board extended free memberships to all the affected businesses so that they might be able to avail themselves of the Chamber's resources, and allowed us to act as the repository for the Hadley Fire Fund, which opened on October 30.
The Chamber was joined in coordinating a response effort by the United Way of Hampshire County. Its executive director, Jim Ayres has been an invaluable resource for the Chamber as we manage the fund. Many, many thanks to Shardool and Kishore Parmar of Pioneer Valley Hotel Group and the staff of the Hadley Farms Meeting House, who have been generous with their meeting rooms over the past month.
So what's happened over the past few weeks -
1. There have been 3 meetings of the affected businesses, with 8-9 businesses in attendance. The first two meetings were about support and needs assessments. We had a resource fair last Thursday to connect people to agencies and capital.
2. The Chamber and the United way have met with the Red Cross, Center for New Americans, Greater Northampton Chamber, Franklin Hampshire Career Center, and Community Action! to garner support services and create a plan of action for support of the businesses
3. The fund, which has collected nearly $23,000 as of this writing, has a goal of $65,000. The fund will be distributed equally among the businesses affected by the fire. The fund will retire in mid-December.
4. We will continue to provide support and resources to the businesses after the fund is retired.
5. Easthampton Savings Bank has offered the businesses a no-money down loan on 100% of replacement purchases for equipment at a rate of 3.75% for 7 years.
6. Businesses have filled out necessary paperwork with Massachusetts Emergency Management Association to meet eligibility requirement for Small Business Administration assistance. If more than 5 businesses are uninsured or underinsured, the entire complex is eligible for SBA loans.
7.Our local federal and state legislative delegation has offered considerable support to relief efforts. Many thanks to Congressman McGovern, Sen Rosenberg, and Rep. Scibek for their support.
There is much more to do over the next few weeks and months as businesses continue to reestablish themselves in Hadley or the surrounding area. The Chamber, United Way, and Hadley Town Government will be there to assist as we can with the help of our partners. We will continue to update you all in our Chamber newsletter and on the blog.
September 30, 2013 at 12:54pm
Last night, the Chamber was honored to co-host an event with The Amherst Kanegasaki Sister City Committee at the Marriott Center at the UMass Campus Center Hotel. The well-attended affair featured nine members of the Kanegasaki delegation, including the city's mayor, Mr. Yoshiichi Takahashi and several other governmeent officials.
This is the 20th anniversary of the Amherst-Kanegasaki Sister City agreement, and the visit this week is a renewal of that historic friendship pact. The Chamber was proud to be a participant in the event, and many thanks go to our Membership and Marketing Director, Joan Temkin, for her work on the event with Sister City chair Kathleen Woods Masalski.
I was privileged to offer the toast to our friendship. Below, are my remarks.
"Greetings to all!
On behalf of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, I am proud to welcome you, our sister city delegation from Kanegasaki.
I was asked to tell you a little about our town from a business persepctive. We are the largest municipality in Hampshire County and have the third largest population in the Pioneer Valley region, trailing only Springfield and Chicopee.
Our business climate is dominated by our main industry: education. Our two colleges, Hampshire and Amherst, and the University of Massachusetts, combined emply approximately 4,000 people. with activity on campus, we could have as many as 70-80,000 people in town on a busy day. The economic imoact of all of this busyness is estimated, based on 2010 reports, to be about $2 billion annually. With the opening of the new life sciences center here on campus, we expect that number to rise substantially, as the University's new world class facility will increase economic opportunity and investment in the Amherst area.
Our education economy is not limited to the university level, as our school system is also a major employer in the town. As well, Amherst also has two private elementary schools, and a robust appreciation for early childhood education with several facilities devoted to children six months to five years of age.
I understand that in Kanegasaki you have lifelong learning centers throughout your town. We share that enthusiasm for life-long learning and rank as one of the best retirement locations in the United States as we offer great opportunities for our seniors to engage in the intellectual life of our town with such programs as Five College Learning in Retirement and other town-sponsored programs.
Our other industries are service oriented - mostly small businesses of under 50 employees, attorneys, medicine, restaurant and retail, and dozens of home-based technological companies. Like your city, we have a strong agricultural base, with nearly 50 working farms in Amherst, and a growing demand by young organic farmers for land here.
And while there is so much more to talk about, I must mentioned our many cultural attractions, including eight museums, the UMass Fine Arts Center, our independent cinema, and our public library system, all of which act as centers for our community, visited by hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors yearly. Two of our museums - The Emily Dickinson Museum and The Eric Carle Museum - have long ties to Japanese visitors and scholars.
So a toast to our friendship. I do hope you have a wonderful visit to Amherst on the occasion of our 20th anniversary as sister cities. May this be a reaffirmation of our bonds and future exchanges.
September 16, 2013 at 10:27am
What a crazy busy week here in the Amherst Area Chamber offices! This might be one of the craziest weeks we've had outside of a Taste of Amherst prep week.
In the spirit of the Mayweather-Canelo extravaganza this past Saturday, here is the Tale of the Tape:
2 Board meetings (Amherst Area Chamber/Hampshire Regional Tourism Council)
3 Ribbon Cuttings (Scandihoovians, Cheryl Nina Salon and Day Spa, and Hadley Farms Meeting House)
1 Chamber Luncheon, featuring Phil Korman of CISA
1 Huge Community Event - The Celebrate Amherst Block Party
We'll have pictures of our ribbon cuttings soon. The first at Scandihoovians was a very nice welcome back to Laurie Christensen and her staff as the Chamber formally celebrated the store's return to downtown. Their digs in the extraordinary Boltwood Place building are just the right size, and look onto Amherst's newest 'main street' adjacent to the Boltwoord Garage. There is plenty of great energy there, and the arrival of a retail presence to complement the busy restaurant scene in that section of downtown should boost foot traffic even more. Some of the conversation that afternoon with David Williams and Kyle Wilson of Archipelago Investments, the landlords at Boltwood Place, and John Musante, the Amherst Town Manager centered around potential BID programming of music and entertainment around the garage entrance.
On Thursday, the Chamber celebrated the move of Cheryl Nina Salon and Day Spa. While I couldn't attend as the BID board weighed the pros and cons of moving ahead with the Block Party (the forecast was threatening cloudbursts that day), I understand the 12:30 ribbon cutting was well attended and loads of fun. Best of luck to my friend Cheryl Nina Choquette at the new location. Tammy-Lynn became a new customer right after the event, getting all prettied-up for a 1940s dance she and her hubby were attending that evening. Here's a pic from Cheryl's Facebook page.
Later that evening, the Celebrate Amherst Block Party was in full force. While very real threats of rain were in the forecast, the crowds were not deterred from coming into downtown. Right before the skies opened at 6:55pm, throngs of students were making their way past Kendrick Park. The rains sent people scattering for a bit until the heaviest of the showers had passed, and many danced the evening away, completely drenched but still smiling. Big congratulations to the Amherst BID for their hard work, a high five to interim Operations director Sarah LaCour and much love to Zanna's Mina Lussier for her tireless work on behalf of this wonderful downtown. She has been the glue that keeps things together.
And then . . . TGIF! Friday the 13th was lucky for us. we had two wonderful events.
In Amherst, the Lord Jeffery Inn hosted our September luncheon, featuring CISA Executive Director, Phil Korman. Sponsored by UMass Five College Credit Union, 55 people came out to hear Phil speak about our area farming community - where we were, where it is now, where it is going - and were treated to CISA's new tool that measures economic impacts by spending on local farms and CSAs. As always, Mr. Korman was informative and engaging, and the Chamber was happy to see some returning friends to the event like Bill and Connie Gillen of Sunset Farm, Sarah Swartz, and Bernard Brennan of the new All Things Local Market. Kudos to the programming committee who scheduled this terrific event, and for bringing BNI's Jason Turcotte in earlier in the morning for a networking seminar.
And finally, we ended the day, and week with our friends at the Greater Northampton Chamber in celebrating the grand opening of the new Hadley Farms Meeting House. I was honored to emcee the event, which featured remarks by GNCC executive director, Suzanne Beck, State Senator Stan Rosenberg, and president of the Pioneer Valley Hotel Group Shardool Parmar. The new facility is absolutely stunning and is conveniently located right off of 91 in Hadley. Able to seat 250 people, it is a terrific venue for wedding receptions, bar mitzvahs, luncheons and more. It's an exciting new addition to Hampshire County's hospitality venues. We should have some pictures up shortly on our Facebook page. Best of luck to Shardool and the Parmar family on their newest venture.
And that was the week that was!
August 29, 2013 at 12:21pm
Sing it with me . . . "It's the MOST wonderful tiiiiime of the year!"
School's back in session! If you're like me, your excited. As of today, my two kids are off to 4th and 7th grades, and the sense of energy is palpable throughout the Five College area (traffic, too!).
Yesterday was the unofficial kick-off to the busy season here in the Bestest College Town in All of America. Yesterday morning, along with Chamber board member and UMass Executive Director of University Relations and Events (one of the longest titles ever) Nancy Buffone, I was privileged to co-MC the 47th Annual UMass-Chamber Community Breakfast. As usual, the Student Union Ballroom was hot, muggy, and filled to capacity with folks ready to get back to work all tanned and rested.
Chamber board president Larry Archey took the traditional Chamber slot in the program with a speech about town/gown collaboration, noting that the business community is always optimistic upon the arrival of the students and the academic year. His address encouraged us all to build upon our past successes to create even more shared opportunity.
Each year, the student speaker is one of the best and brightest that the University has to offer. This year's speaker, Tracy Gebhart was no exception. Her bio is enough to make you tired:
"One of UMass’ 21st Century Leaders, Tracy Gebhart, from Sioux Falls, South Dakota is a 2013 graduate who majored in Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies and, through the Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration program, completed a second major, “Civic Engagement and Public Health Education through Media Production.” She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Public Policy here at UMass Amherst. As a student, she was part of the IMPACT! service-learning Residential Academic Program, the Citizen Scholars Program, and after a semester abroad studying European governmental policies relating to people with disabilities, she returned to train the student leaders in the Boltwood Project on a social justice framework for understanding the work their students do with disabilities. Throughout her four years she did community service with a number of community organizations, including Safe Passage, which provides shelter to survivors of domestic abuse."
Tracy is going to do great things. Like so many of our terrific UMass, Amherst, and Hampshire students.
Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy rounded out the speaking portion of the program. Paraphrasing here, he said that both Amherst and the University have gone through recent long range master planning processes, but we have not done necessary strategic planning together. While noting the success of our partnerships and heralding planned discussions in the fall toward building a long-term vision between UMass and Amherst.
Later that evening, the Amherst Regional Schools held its 4th Annual First Day event. Despite the threat of rain throughout, and an eventual downpour at the conclusion of the program, this was the best attended First Day event yet with hundreds of families out to hear from the district's principals and Superintendant Maria Geryk. The festive evening has become a wonderful kick-off to the first day of school.
I'm looking forward to the next 9 months, for its routine, the homework, the community that our academic institutions bring to the area.
What's your favorite thing about the school year? Let us know!
August 28, 2013 at 02:23pm
Last week, I was pleased to accompany my fellow co-director in the Hampshire County Regional Tourism Council, Suzanne Beck to the US Travel Association's ESTO conference in Richmond, VA.
The conference theme: Let Your Creative Side Out to Play. I wouldn't have thought a travel conference could bring out my own seemingly dormant creative side, but it did. Both Suzanne and I have come back raring to go.
I even came close to getting my first tattoo (that is not nearly as scandalous as it sounds).
The takeaways from this surprising conference were many, including some personal insights about leadership from the composer Eric Whitacre and about being liberated from fear by the actor and writer, Andrew McCarthy.
Some other takeaways (besides the really awesome swag):
1. People who travel get to know themselves better and become better people. (Sure, Andrew McCarthy told me that about himself, but upon recollection that is absolutely true. I'm only more adventurous, more open, from having been places outside my comfort zone. I am open to new ideas, and I bring that optimism back to my work and home life.)
2. Depending to whom you talk - print is not dead. Or it is. Or we just don't know.
3. Google thinks that Destination Marketing Organizations are dead. Destination Marketing Organizations think Google is silly to think that.
4. Economists can be funny. Really, really funny.
5. There is a true Travel Effect. After last week I can attest to it being true.
July 19, 2013 at 08:24am
I'm a little behind with posting on our recent Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament. This year was our 10th Anniversary event, presented once again by our great friends at Hampshire Hospitality Group. Despite the pretty intense heat - it probably peaked at 95 on the course - there were smiles all around. Of course, an iced towel and an ice cream cone after the 9th hole will make most people smile!
The Chamber was happy to be back at our home course at Hickory Ridge Golf Club after a year away. The Chamber held the first tournament of the year at the course. Bill Rosenblum and his staff made this a top-notch event and we thank them.
While my team, sponsored by NEPM, was nowhere near the leader board, we were a respectable -4. That was good enough for office bragging rights, as Tammy-Lynn Chace's team came in +13. Thankfully, Joan Temkin and Hope Keenan didn't play. The course could only survive so many divets.
A big thanks to Jim Conlon, the committee chair, for his hard work inmaking this tournament a great success year-in-year-out. Over the course of its existence, he had been responsible for helping the Chamber raise over 130,000, of which we contribute nearly 6,000 in scholarship and general support to the Amherst-Pelham Regional High School business program. Also, big thanks to our committee (with apologies if I've missed anyone and a promise to add you here!). Many of these folks have been working together for quite some time and I've linked to their businesses: Steve Prothers, Barb Bilz, Pat Patenaude, Phil Ciccarelli, Fred Smith, Georgia Moore, Youssef Fadel, Kim Stender, Dave Perlmutter, and John Ebbets. Special thanks to John Thibbitts, a former committee member, for helping in a pinch with the beer tent. Also a enormous thanks to all of our sponsors and players who make this event possible.
July 3, 2013 at 10:07am
Chamber member, Greg Bernier of I.T.B. Photography was in shooting the Chamber offices for our Google Places account and had some fun with staff. The women of the office look terrific . . . I don't know about me.
Tammy, Joan, and Hope next to the Chamber banner
Tony makes an appearance . . .
July 2, 2013 at 01:10pm
Amherst's Spanish Studies Abroad received its license to run its long dormant educational programs in Cuba, and its achievement was covered in today's Daily Hampshire Gazette (subscription required). The company's executive director, Jerry Guidera, who is a member of the Chamber's Board of Directors, and the recently renamed Center for Cross Cultural Studies, led the 10-year charge to open up Cuba as a viable destination for university students with the intention of expanding their world-view through immersion studies. Spanish Studies Abroad received only the 2nd of 3 licenses issued to study abroad providers.
The White Hut, a West Springfield Insitution since 1939, with a location in Amherst since 2011, has recently been named one of the top 33 burgers in the country by Thrillist.com. The White Hut's burger ranks up there with those at places like the Minetta Tavern in NYC, which, to an old NY'er is really saying something. It shows Western Mass. can do it right. The write-up describing this culinary achievement advises: "You have to get the peppery fried onions on the burger, you can't order just one, and you shouldn't add any condiments, though, if you must, ketchup is the only acceptable move." You may disagree; BBQ sauce is pretty darn good on the burger, too. Congrats to Bobby Barkett and the gang for the achievement. We expect to hear more good news on the burger front from these guys soon.
And, in news really great for those who eat too many burgers, on Monday, Cooley Dickinson Hospital made their affiliation with Massachusetts General Hospital official. The affiliation was being touted by top officials as critical for the "long-term health of both the hospital and thousands of patients throughout the Valley." For CDH, this means that the bredth and depth of service will increase and additionally, ever more programming from Mass General can be brought to the community. Locally, we're aware of the great service that Cooley Dickinson provides. Now, through their agreement with U.S. News and World Report's top ranked hospital, our region will be well-served. Congrats to Craig Melin and Cooley Dickinson Hospital on this historic arrangement.
May 23, 2013 at 02:54pm
Want to practice on your golf swing for the Annual Chamber Golf Tournament but the weather isn't cooperating? Western Massachusetts Family Golf Center located on 294 Russell St. Rte. 9 in Hadley has a Golf Simulator with 32 courses! While you are there, welcome them to the Chamber... as they are one of our newest members.
May 23, 2013 at 01:43pm
It seemed like a gajillion people came out for the Chamber's May After 5 dual ribbon cutting, Grand Reopening, and 50th Anniversary Celebration at Atkins Farms County Market. A select few folks took the town's newest and most fun transportation option, the Amherst BID Trolley to the far reaches of South Amherst (Alex Krogh-Grabbe, the BID director brought his passport to the event) to take part in the festivities, which involved 50-cent hot dogs, beer and wine samples, cheese and crackers, Chef Bill's Pad Thai, tea from TeaGuys and more.
Special thanks to Pauline Lannon for her continued support of the Chamber and congrats to the x2 milestone of the 50th Anniversary and an amazing renovation to an Amherst landmark. The Chamber wishes Pauline and all the folks at Atkins great success over the next 50 years (and beyond).
The Chamber also would like to thank John Vassallo and all the folks at Easthampton Savings Bank for their sponsorship of the After Five.
Mark your calendars for our next Chamber events:
June 13-16: The Taste of Amherst (sign up for soda server slots!)
June 14: The Taste breakfast
June 26: New Member Reception - come and meet nearly 60 new Chamber members!
July 15: Fore! The 10th Anniversary Golf Tournament at Hickory Ridge, presented by Hampshire Hospitality Group
May 17, 2013 at 09:07am
It was a bring your work outside kind of day. The Program Committee enjoyed The Lord Jeffery Inn Rooftop Desk while discussing upcoming networking events.
We are always looking for new members to join the Program Committee. The committee gets together monthly to discuss possible venues for the Breakfast and After 5 networking events, programs, sponsorships, and recruiting guest speakers.
If you are reading this and your wheels are spinning, maybe thinking of a place in mind, a program, or a guest speaker that you find would be of interest, let us know. Like to join the crowd over at The Lord Jeffery Inn? Our next Program Committee is on Thursday, June 13th at The Lord Jeffery Inn.
May 15, 2013 at 08:54am
Students from ARHS FBLA program
The Chamber held its May breakfast at the Lord Jeffery Inn this morning, filling the Emily Dickinson room to capacity. Hickory Ridge Golf Club and JF Conlon and Associates were on hand as sponsors for the morning's program presented by Amherst Pelham Regional High School's Future Business Leader's of America club.
Bill Rosenblum from Hickory Ridge Golf Club
The Chamber's Golf Tournament, chaired by Jim Conlon since its inception in 2003, has had a long history with the high school's business program, raising $30,000 for the business program and scholarships each year for 2 seniors attending UMass in a business related field. Jim was on hand to praise the business program and tout the 10th Anniversary Tournament, set for July 15 at Hickory Ridge County Club.
Jim Conlon, chair, Chamber Golf Committee
The business program, led by Missy Shea has classes in accounting, entrepreneurship, and keyboarding (!), and the FBLA works closely with the Hospitality and Sports Management Programs at UMass. The FBLA also raises money each year for CancerCare at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, long a scholarship sponsor of the Chamber's Golf Tournament.
The Chamber is so proud of our connection with Missy Shea and her talented students and look forward to supporting them for many years to come.
April 8, 2013 at 12:09pm
photo courtesy Amherst College
Sometimes the casual sports fan in Amherst, Mass can be distracted by the Division I presence of the UMass Minutemen and forget that there is another team in town, and one with a fine sports tradition. The Amherst College Jeffs are among the premiere NCAA Division III programs in the country.
This weekend, for the second time, the Jeffs captured a national championship in men's basketball with an 87-70 win over UMHB (Mary Hardin-Baylor) at the Phillips Arena in Atlanta.
Big congrats from all of us at the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce. We're proud of our National Champs!
April 8, 2013 at 11:50am
Let's call this post what it is . . . lazy blogging. But hey, not everything has to be long winded and 600 words.
There's still time to get tickets for the TEDx UMass Amherst event if you're a Chamber member. Great deal. Great ideas.
You should be there!
April 2, 2013 at 02:54pm
So we're about a week out after a super duper fun as all get out Margarita Madness at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.
The Chamber was pleased to welcoome over 160 people to this, our newest, and most exciting late winter/early spring event. Over 75 people that came to the event had no official Chamber affiliation, and that made the evening quite special. Not only are our Chamber businesses and members connecting to each other, but we're bringing in new audiences to our events, which open up more opportunities. This is also an event that is truly an Amherst AREA endeavor. We had Franklin county participants (MRKT, Chandlers, Bridgeside Grille, Valley Generators) and Hampden county sponsors (MassLive and Mix 93.1).
I'd like to thank our incredible Margarita Madness committee, without whom we would not have had such a successful event. Our venerable social media master from JTypePlus, Jeannette Thibbitts, kept the buzz going with many tweets and Facebook posts. Julie Orvis from Historic Deerfield was a terrific and fun presence at the many tasting meetings, and brought a real Franklin County presence to our meetings. Chamber MVP, Youssef Fadel was always willing to host (and toast) meetings at his North Amherst abode. Tiffany Raines of PeoplesBank was a member of the committee. This was her first real Chamber committee experience, and she joined the right group! Kim Allie of Amherst Laser and Skin Care brought in a bunch of new faces to the event and is a great new, enthusiatic addition to the Chamber family. For the second year in a row, Suzanne Boniface kept us on track and coordinated. And from the staff side, the inimitable and indispensible Joan Temkin worked in the office and on vacation to make sure that this event was super fun.
The winners of the best Margarita this year - The Pub for Best Restaurant and Most Creative, and New England Promotion Marketing for Best Business Margarita.
A full list of winners and sponsors can be found here. Thanks to all who supported and participated in this event. We'll do it again next year!
March 20, 2013 at 12:09pm
Join Venly and the Amherst Area Chamber at the Jones Library in the Woodbury Room, Thursday, March 28 from 12-2, and learn how to Grow Your Business with Social Media.
As part of our Community Connection Campaign, join us at the Chamber’s Brown Bag Workshop on Social Media for Community Growth. This session is geared toward business owners and managers who have little to moderate levels of experience with social media--or wonder why it matters.
This 90 minute workshop focuses on how to get more out of the Big 10 Social Media Channels.
- How do businesses use free tools to gain visibility, develop relationships, and drive sales?
- What is the new Facebook Nearby feature?
- How will you incorporate social media into your business
- Should you be “promoting” on Facebook?
- How your business will get more Likes and Check-ins
If you register in advance, we will assess your business using a colorful, easy to understand view of your use of social media. This 100-element Social Score benchmarks where your business stands compared to the overall scores of Chamber members and how each business could improve.
The videos below give an overview of Venly and a case study of one success story:
Given the interactive nature of the workshop, seating is limited; so register early to ensure a spot. We will be meeting in the Woodbury Room of the Jones Library. Please bring your laptop, a smartphone if you have one, and your lunch. Register through Facebook, Chamber members free, non-members $10, or call the Chamber at (413) 253-0700.
Cookies and Coffee will provided by The Loose Goose Cafe.
Presented by the Amherst Area Chamber’s Community Social Media Consultants
March 20, 2013 at 11:24am
Last week, the Hampshire County Regional Tourism Council unveiled its research, marketing plan, and new brand to an excited crowd of 75 industry folks at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. The RTC, a partnership of the Amherst Area, Greater Easthampton, and Greater Northampton Chambers of Commerce, was formed in August 2010, when Sen. Stan Rosenberg inserted language into Governor Patrick’s economic development bill.
The RTC has been working hard ever since, forming an advisory board, creating new connections for the industry in Hampshire County with international tour operators and travel writers, working with the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce on a Pioneer Valley imaging campaign, and collaborating with Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture and Museums10. In a collaborative arrangement with our partners at Museums10, we’ve hired Melissa Breor as our RTC coordinator. She’s a real trooper, too; she doesn’t have one set office, but rather works in three different offices every week.
I’d like to share some links to our news last week. From the Gazette:
On ABC News40:
You can also check out the Visit Hampshire County page on Facebook for more on the branding campaign, images, and video from the event and more.
In the coming months, you’ll see more about the RTC in the area papers, through the Chamber, and the RTC’s email blast. Do feel free to email Melissa at email@example.com if you’d like to sign-up to get the RTC’s bi-weekly email. Make sure to put “add me to the RTC email list” in the subject line.
January 28, 2013 at 01:16pm
The Chamber's Annual Meeting took place on a snowy January 16 at the Lord Jeffery Inn. The 90 or so participants were on hand to see the keynote speaker, Mohegan Sun CEO Mitchell Etess speak about his company's plans for a resort casino development in Palmer.
And while the Chamber had quite a bit of coverage (here and here and here) for Mr. Etess' talk, there was important Chamber business taking place, as well. We were happy to welcome G. Christopher Blauvelt, COO and CFO of Innovara in Hadley; Julie Marcus, director of marketing at New England Environmental, Amherst; Youssef Fadel, independant contractor at New England Promotional Marketing in Wilbraham; and John Kokoski, owner of Mapleline Farm in Hadley to the Chamber's Board of Directors. We were also happy to welcome the formal installation of Larry Archey as the Chamber's Board President.
Larry Archey is the Director of Facilities and Grounds at Hampshire College where he has worked for 23 years. In addition to facilities management, Larry has represented the College in a number of renovation and new construction projects, land use initiatives, and Town and government relations. In recent years, he was a member of the Town of Amherst Master Plan and Fire Station Review Committees.
I'm looking forward to working with Larry over the next year. He brings smart leadership and a long relationship with many in town government. He has a reputation for working well with many different folks and getting things done.
Below, please find a text of Larry's speech to the Chamber's membership at the Annual Meeting.
I am happy to be here today as I begin my term as President of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce – for a second time – what was I thinking? I’ve received congratulatory and “good Luck” calls from many of you. You know, the ones that sound something like this: Good Luck! GOOOD luck, and good luck. In all seriousness, thank you for your good wishes and please know there’s not a better business organization in the valley than the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce and I am proud to be your President.
I wish to first thank Kathryn Grandonico for her leadership this past year. She was at the helm of a number of important initiatives and I hope to be able to build upon the good work she has started.
I am also excited and eager to work closely with Vice President, Lyne Kendal, Tony, executive director extraordinaire, Joan and Tammy at the Chamber office, and the many talented and committed professionals that make up our Board of Directors. They are leaders from a wide range of professions such as retail,law, entertainment, social services, farming, and not-for-profit industries. They represent small, mid-size and large organizations with offices located in the Amherst and Hadley area. Our Board is truly a reflection of the make-up of the Chamber and its commitment to represent all our member businesses.
Now, if I was a betting man, I would say the odds are probably somewhere around 10:1 that you are not here to listen to me. Rather, you’re here to listen to the message from our keynote speaker Mr Etess. Yet, I want to ask that you indulge me for just a brief moment while I share with you some key initiatives the Chamber will be focused on this year.
If I were to summarize our goals for the coming year into a theme, it might be best described as “strengthening existing partnerships and creating new ones”. And we look to accomplish this through the following objectives:
First, a primary objective will be to strengthen our partnerships with our current members. We will strive to evolve into a more high touch, personal organization by increasing our contacts and communications with individual members, ensuring them we are responding to their needs, reminding them of the many services and educational opportunities we provide, and to encourage their participation within the organization. After all, by definition, “a partnership is an arrangement where parties agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests.”
Second, we will develop strategies to increase our membership numbers. This is essential if we are to maintain the financial resources needed to increase our effectiveness as an organization and to provide the level of services our members have grown to expect from a first class chamber of commerce.
Third, we will look to strengthen an already solid relationship with town and state government. Through pro-active discussions and joint strategic initiatives, together, we will respond to the challenges that will surely arise and take advantage of the business opportunities upon which an education and hospitality dependent economy relies.
Fourth, we are excited about the opportunity to build upon what has already begun to be a valuable partnership with the Business Improvement District. We are confident, that by working together, we will enhance the attractiveness, vibrancy and economic success of the downtown business district.
Finally, the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce is eager to participate in the ongoing development of a regional chamber of commerce. We believe that by working together on regional based initiatives such as tourism and economic development, we will help to ensure economic success for our members as well as businesses throughout the region.
While our work plan for the coming year may appear ambitious, I am confident in the ability of our team to execute it successfully. Under the leadership of our Executive Director, Tony Maroulis, and the guidance of a committed Board of Directors, I look forward to strengthening the valued partnerships we have with many of you and creating new partnerships with others.
Thank you and I wish you the very best in the coming year.
October 4, 2012 at 11:38am
This year, the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce has the privilege to honor an organization and three individuals that have contributed in so many amazing ways to the lives of our communities. These deserving award winners – The Hitchcock Center for the Environment (Legacy Award for Environmental Leadership), Ray Shafie and Chris Riddle (Lifetime Achievement in Business), and Youssef Fadel (Chamber MVP) – help tell a wonderful story about the richness of the Amherst Area and the quality of our membership.
In years past, we’ve come up with a theme for this event. From “Stars of the Valley” to last year’s “Works of Art” the narrative thread was a means to unite the award winners in some cohesive way. This year, we have multiple similarities to highlight and stories to tell.
Perhaps for the first time, we have two foreign born winners – Ray Shafie and Youssef Fadel - both of Middle Eastern heritage. Coincidentally, Chris Riddle also spent a long time in Tunisia, where he met his wife and began his career. Chris’s architecture practice has always been environmentally mindful, striving to create the most energy conscious works. Ray, Youssef, and Chris all have strong connections to their community and give considerable time to charitable work or to directly helping others.
The Hitchcock Center has been committed to teaching us how to be stewards of our environment. It is a center of our community, in which the mission is to create a better world. While “Think globally, act locally” has become a cliché, all four of our honorees exemplify how to do it.
I’m really proud of our award winners. The diversity, experience, and richness that they bring to the Amherst Area make me proud to live and work here, and are indicative of the quality of our Chamber membership.
September 25, 2012 at 02:22pm
This morning at the Lord Jeffery Inn, UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy joined 60 members of the Chamber at our September breakfast. Sponsored by UMass University Relations, the Chancellor's comments and give-and-take with the audience was notable for its candor, as well as a deep understanding of town/gown relations.
Having had the opportunity to meet with the Chancellor recently, I was not surprised with his keen intellect and knowledge of the town's issues.
While the Chancellor might not use the term "Communiversity," one which I use often (and borrowed from the past president of Boulder, CO's Naropa University, Dr. Stuart Lord), but his stated view of the town's relationship with UMass is similar to that thinking. During today's presentation, Swamy stressed a mutually-beneficial relationship and a renewed commitment between the University and town.
It was an exciting morning. I'd love to hear feedback by those who were there. What questions would you have asked the Chancellor if there were more time?
September 25, 2012 at 02:08pm
"Satisfaction is dangerous."
"Go the extra inch."
If you follow us on Facebook or Twitter, you'd have seen a number of posts from The Big E in West Springfield. Representing the Hampshire County Regional Tourism, along with my good friend, Greater Northampton Chamber director Suzanne Beck, I attended the 25th Annual Governor's Conference on Travel and Tourism last Thursday. The Hampshire County RTC is still relatively new; this is our second full funding cycle in 2012-13. Formed in 2010 in Governor Patrick's economic development bill, and championed by State Sen. Stan Rosenberg, the HCRTC is still in its formative stages.
This year's Governor's Conference, organized by the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, was a terrific event. Our keynote speaker, Jeff Noel of the Disney Leadership Institute, kept the audience rapt with a fast paced, humorous, and informative speech about getting employees to buy into a company's mission by being invested, and living in the moment. With the goal of doing more than what is expected in each encounter, we get the most out of our employees - and ourselves. An admitted skeptic of corporate training, this particular presentation hit me. I took much more out of it than expected. It was pretty Zen.
The Governor was also on hand, and rallied those in the tourism and hospitality industries. In all, 2011-12 was a good rebound year for Massachusetts tourism. Jobs and receipts are up statewide, as is hotel revenue. Governor Patrick reported that the industry is the third highest employer with over 124,000 workers, bringing in over 16.9 million in direct spending, $3.6 billion in wages, and $1.1 billion in local and state taxes.
What does this mean for Hampshire County? With the formation of the RTC and robust participation from industry partners, we hope to increase visitation to our unique slice of the Valley. Over our first full year of state funding, we've forged important partnerships with our sister agencies in Greater Springfield and Franklin County, commissioned vital consumer research to inform our strategic marketing platform and better understand the Hampshire County visitor. In short order we hope to complete our marketing plan and create our new integrated website and social media platform that will enhance the new Hampshire County brand, while supporting and supplementing our neighbors in Western Massachusetts.
We have a unique opportunity as a start-up to do things well, with research, and the experience of other agencies as our guide. With continued regional cooperation with our partners at the Northampton and Easthampton Chambers, the Amherst and Northampton BIDs and sister tourism agencies, we might better leverage our resources to create a visitor experience that truly delivers on the Disney promise to make each vacation the best vacation the visitor has ever had.
September 17, 2012 at 10:38am
So finally, we're back in the swing of things - August and vacations are a distant blur - and the first two weeks of September (really since the last week of August) with the return of the Amherst area's student population and general academic business has been very busy.
What a fun stretch for the Amherst Area business community. There's been really good energy to start the fall semester. And the Chamber has been proud to be a community partner in all of these.
A quick recap:
August 29 - The 45th Annual UMass - Chamber Community Breakfast unofficially kicked off the school year. Over 350 people attended this yearly favorite, held as usual in the beautiful UMass Student Union Ballroom. The highlight of the morning were the remarks by the new UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. As always, there were a number of giveaways, introductions of many of our area's most important leaders (Sen. Stan Rosenberg, Rep. Ellen Story, Rep. John Scibek, Rep. Peter Kocut, DA Dave Sullivan, Amherst Town Manager John Musante, Hadley Town Administrator David Nixon, and many, many more), 2 incredible student speakers, and, of course, the Power and Class, UMass's amazing marching band. Among the most loved traditions of the early year, there were smiles everywhere after the event, as everyone was renewed and excited.
That same evening - the 3rd Annual First Day Celebration kicked off the Amherst Regional Public Schools fall calendar with a fun-filled family event. With non-profit partners, activities for kids, and Dave Ranin's Middle School Choir in good voice, the Common kept the festive atmosphere going in downtown.
Labor Day weekend was UMass Orientation weekend, and UMass Community Relations and Promoting Downtown Amherst conspired to put on Adventure Into Amherst. The event, for first year students, is an introduction to all that's happening in downtown and for our businesses to put on their best face to a new batch of customers. Some of the fun is captured in this YouTube video.
Of course, last, but not least, was the first ever Celebrate Amherst Block Party last Thursday September 13. Mosquitoes be damned!
The event was discussed for years, but planned in earnest by the Amherst Business Improvement District's Marketing Committee. This was its first major event and it put the BID on the map! Estimates place the crowds between 5-6000 people who made North Pleasant Street from Amity to Triangle a pedestrian mall for one great, great event. The success of the event was made possible by the Amherst community - students and residents alike who came together in one place and had a terrific evening. Noteable was the creativity of our businesses - Vici and its fashion show, Hair By Harlow and its break dancing troupe, Chez Albert clearing out the patio and making an adult pen so folks can casually have a drink and relax.
There's really been nothing like it in this community. This will be the first of many, many successful BID events to come. Special praise to BID Exec Director Alex Krogh-Grabbe for his efforts, David Mazor for chairing the BOD Marketing committee and making sure it met every week since May, and to the Lussiers - Mina and Sam - for their incredible energy and dedication to the downtown. Mina and Jerry Jolly beat the bushes and encouraged people to participate. And it was wonderful.
There's more to come in the weeks ahead, and we'll keep you posted here - in advance this time! - over the course of the semester.
July 24, 2012 at 10:36am
By Felicity Hardee
Attorney, Bulkley,Richardson & Gelinas
Amherst Area Chamber Board of Directors
This guest post is part of a series by the Chamber's Board of Directors
The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce has done a tremendous job of facilitating opportunities for members of the community to get to know our future congressman Jim McGovern. Recently, I was delighted to hear from Tony Maroulis that Congressman McGovern was going to be in town this week and had a chance to introduce myself when the congressman and his staff were visiting Atkins Farms this week (BTW: Pauline is doing a fabulous job of maintaining excellent selection and service under extraordinarily trying circumstances; please do check out Atkins http://www.atkinsfarms.com/ and support our South Amherst business anchor). Thanks to the chamber’s coordination of this event, I had a few precious minutes of the congressman’s time one-on-one. We talked about the economy, budget cuts and the now (in)famous “fiscal cliff” off of which the country will be driving if Congress does not act by the end of the year. While Congressman McGovern had no easy answers to any of these issues, I was incredibly impressed with his compassion, intelligence and likeability.
Thanks very much to the chamber and all it does to advance the interests of our members with our federal, state and local legislators!
July 2, 2012 at 11:49am
By Meredith Schmidt
Director, Campus Center/Student Union Complex
University of Massachusetts
Amherst Chamber Board Member
Editor's Note: This is one of a series of blog posts by the Chamber's Board of Directors
There’s “Something about Amherst”……..
When I was just a kid growing up in the Holyoke area, there was always “Something about Amherst” that attracted me. Back then it was probably the ride through town, the local shops, enjoying the green grass on the Commons, my first rock concert at UMass, and of course, the cider donuts from Atkins, just to name a few…
Then I chose to move here to attend the University. There was still “Something about Amherst” for me. It became the daily trips into town to Faces, the Pub, Zanna, $1 pizzas from Bell’s, the nightlife, and of course, the cider donuts from Atkins, just to name a few…
After I graduated, I moved away for a few years but that “Something about Amherst” compelled me to come back. I found my dream job at the University and have been here now over 30 years. Now that “Something about Amherst” is more about the wonderful culture, supporting the local businesses, and most importantly belonging to the Amherst Chamber. It is about meeting all of the local business owners at the many Chamber events , serving on the Board, contributing to the Town/Gown relations with the University, and of course, still the cider donuts from Atkins, just to name a few…
What is your “Something about Amherst”?
Join the Chamber – Get Involved – It’s great fun!
June 28, 2012 at 10:08am
By Jacqueline Zuzgo
Jones Group Realtors
Chamber Board Member since 2008
Editors note: This is the fourth in a series of posts from the Chamber's Board of Directors
Just a few days ago, my gaze was attracted to the cemetery out my office window here at the Jones Group. A large tour bus caught my eye as it was allowing its passengers to disembark. I couldn’t help but watch them make their way around the peaceful landscape that marks the quiet resting place of our local icon, Emily Dickinson. Emily's musings on life and nature hold a power strong enough to call her fans to Amherst, the place she herself was born, lived, and “Called Back” from. A quintessential New England town we have come to know and love century after century.
Time and again I am reminded of the wondrous history that surrounds us here in Amherst, Massachusetts. Emily Dickinson is but one example the long history of writers and artists who have lived and worked in the backyards of Amherst. Their words and art continue to enthrall people from around the world. I am often delighted by the fact that in spite of the influx of a huge student population from all over the world, our town continues to hold dear to a “small town” familiarity.
For myself, whether it’s a quick stop for gasoline from Ren’s Mobil, shopping at Zanna’s, or enjoying lunch at Judie’s, people know me by name. I am always welcomed at Judie’s by either Judie or Katie with a warm and gracious hello. These women are quick to recommend a tasty new dish and kindly ask after my family and what’s happening with my work.
Amherst is a small town with big offerings and a huge heart – a place most certainly for me!