<![CDATA[All Blogs]]> <![CDATA[New Year, New Start Benefit for Hadley Fire Relief - Sunday, January 5]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/New-Year-New-Start-Benefit-for-Hadley-Fire-Relief---Sunday-January-5/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

PRESS RELEASE

Monday December 30, 2013

Sunday January 5th “New Year, New Start!” Benefit Concert For Hadley Fire Relief

Amherst, Mass (December 30, 2013) - Northfire Recording Studio and the band Show of Cards, with support from the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, are sponsoring a “New Year, New Start” benefit concert for the international food establishments impacted by the October 27, 2013 fire at 206 Russell Street in Hadley, MA:  Banh Mi Strong, Casablanca Halal Market, International Market, Mi Tierra Restaurant and Wing Wong

Karen Cardozo, one of the concert organizers, said: “coming from an immigrant family myself, I was heartbroken about all that these folks lost after so many years of hard work.  Yet their hope and resilience are so inspiring – we are putting on this concert to honor that spirit and encourage their rebuilding efforts.”

The benefit will take place Sunday January 5th, 4-6PM at the Amherst Regional Middle School, where donations on a sliding scale will be accepted.  Emceed by Tony Maroulis of the Amherst Chamber with sound support from Northfire, the concert features the diverse triple bill of Duo Fusion, The Joe Belmont Trio and Show of Cards.  Classically-trained flutist Sarah Swersey and Viva Quetzal guitarist Joe Belmont will open with their unique blend that has been reviewed as “exquisite” (www.duo-fusion.com).  The Joe Belmont Trio, featuring Rhees Williams on bass and Benny Woodard on drums, will deliver a second set of irresistible “jam-based” funk, R&B and jazz (www.joebelmont.com).  Folk-rock band Show of Cards closes out the line-up with songs from their new release Something Better, hailed by The Greenfield Recorder for “subtle shifts in moods and sounds that carry listeners to a variety of different places,” from jazz-influenced to country-flavored to rock and world music vibes (www.showofcards.com ).  Fronted by siblings Karen and Mike Cardozo on guitars and vocals, the band includes Garrett Sawyer of Gaslight Tinkers on bass and Joe Fitzpatrick of Trailer Park on drums.  

Other upcoming benefits include Rebuild Mi Tierra Fiesta, an evening of food, music and live auction slated for Friday January 24, 7PM at the Look Park Garden House and Together We Dance/Bailamos Juntos, a variety program to be held Saturday January 25, 4-7PM at the Amherst Middle School.  More information is at the Hadley Fire Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Rt9HadleyFire), at the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce website (www.amherstarea.com) and on the Chamber’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/amherstareachamber ofcommerce).

 

Contacts: 

Karen Cardozo, showofcards@gmail.com  (413) 695-4812

Tony Maroulis, tony@amherstarea.com  (413) 687-2757

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<![CDATA[Update on the Hadley Fire Fund and Assistance for the Related Businesses]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Update-on-the-Hadley-Fire-Fund-and-Assistance-for-the-Related-Businesses/
   By Tony Maroulis              (2) Comments

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.

 

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<![CDATA[Notes from Amherst-Kanegasaki Sister City Reception]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Notes-from-Amherst-Kanegasaki-Sister-City-Reception/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

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.

Cheers!" 

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<![CDATA[The week that was: September 9-13]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/The-week-that-was-September-9-13/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

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

September is the busy season, but this might have been the busiest week of all. We did manage to have plenty of fun, however, outside of the Board meetings. Perhaps a recap of those will follow when I get my minutes together.

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!

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<![CDATA[And We're Off!]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/And-Were-Off/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

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! 

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<![CDATA[Recap of the US Travel Association's ESTO conference]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Recap-of-the-US-Travel-Associations-ESTO-conference/
   By Tony Maroulis              (2) Comments

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.

 

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<![CDATA[Chamber Golf Tournament Is A Winner!]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Chamber-Golf-Tournament-Is-A-Winner/
   By Tony Maroulis              (1) Comments

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.

 

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<![CDATA[Fun with Photography]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Fun-with-Photography/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

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 . . .


 
It's Hope!! 

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<![CDATA[Chamber News of the Week: Fidel Castro eats a Great Burger and goes to Mass General]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Chamber-News-of-the-Week-Fidel-Castro-eats-a-Great-Burger-and-goes-to-Mass-General/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

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.

 

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<![CDATA[Golf in the rain]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Golf-in-the-rain/
   By Tammy-Lynn Chace              (0) Comments

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.

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<![CDATA[Atkins After 5 Round-up]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Atkins-After-5-Round-up/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments



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 

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<![CDATA[Program Committee - Fun in the Sun!]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Program-Committee---Fun-in-the-Sun/
   By Tammy-Lynn Chace              (1) Comments

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.

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<![CDATA[Breakfast of (Future Business) Champions]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Breakfast-of-Future-Business-Champions/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

Future Business Leaders                                                          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.

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<![CDATA[Amherst College Division III National Champions]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Amherst-College-Division-III-National-Champions/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

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!

Go Jeffs! 

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<![CDATA[TEDx UMassAmherst this weekend!]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/TEDx-UMassAmherst-this-weekend/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

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!
 

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<![CDATA[2013 Margarita Madness Rewind . . .]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/2013-Margarita-Madness-Rewind---/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

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!

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<![CDATA[Social Media Brown Bag, March 28, presented by Venly]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Social-Media-Brown-Bag-March-28-presented-by-Venly/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

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:

http://www.venly.com/videos/united-states-video-collection/amherst-area-ma-video-collection/amherst-area-ma-fellow-video-collection/amherst-area-ma-venly-history/

http://www.venly.com/videos/united-states-video-collection/amherst-area-ma-video-collection/amherst-area-ma-fellow-video-collection/case-study-adam-penns-diner-a-venly-network-client/

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

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<![CDATA[A New Brand for Hampshire County]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/A-New-Brand-for-Hampshire-County/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

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:

http://www.gazettenet.com/home/5118749-95/county-hampshire-tourism-council

 

On ABC News40:

http://www.wggb.com/2013/03/14/hampshire-county-the-other-side-of-massachusetts/

 

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 mbreor@fivecolleges.edu 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.

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<![CDATA[Notes from the Chamber's January 16 Annual Meeting ]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Notes-from-the-Chambers-January-16-Annual-Meeting-/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

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.

 

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<![CDATA[Tonight's A+ Awards . . .]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Tonights-A-Awards---/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

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.

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<![CDATA[A Terrific Morning and Chamber Breakfast with Chancellor Subbaswamy]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/A-Terrific-Morning-and-Chamber-Breakfast-with-Chancellor-Subbaswamy/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

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? 

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<![CDATA[Governor's Conference and Hampshire County Tourism Update]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Governors-Conference-and-Hampshire-County-Tourism-Update/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

"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.

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<![CDATA[For the Amherst Area, School - and Work - Is Back in Session]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/For-the-Amherst-Area-School---and-Work---Is-Back-in-Session/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

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.






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<![CDATA[From the Chamber's Board of Directors, Vol. 6: Chamber Fosters Dialogue with Our Congressman-To-Be]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/From-the-Chambers-Board-of-Directors-Vol-6-Chamber-Fosters-Dialogue-with-Our-Congressman-To-Be/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

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!

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<![CDATA[From the Chamber's Board of Directors, Vol. 5: "There's Something About Amherst"]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/From-the-Chambers-Board-of-Directors-Vol-5-Theres-Something-About-Amherst/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

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!

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<![CDATA[From the Chamber's Board of Directors, Vol. 4: Amherst - A Small Town With A Big Offerings and A Huge Heart]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/From-the-Chambers-Board-of-Directors-Vol-4-Amherst---A-Small-Town-With-A-Big-Offerings-and-A-Huge-Heart/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

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!

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<![CDATA[From the Chamber Board of Directors, Vol. 3: Networking = Keeping It Local]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/From-the-Chamber-Board-of-Directors-Vol-3-Networking--Keeping-It-Local/
   By Tony Maroulis              (1) Comments

By Jim Brassord
Director of Facilities and Associate Treasurer, Amherst College
At-Large Member of Chamber's Executive Committee 

Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of blog posts by the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors

Sure, the After 5’s are great opportunities for keeping up with friends and colleagues but they can be and are much more than that. 

At an After 5 last year I struck up a conversation with a young new member, Jacob Lefton, who looked a bit like a fish out of water as it was his first Chamber event.  I was fascinated to learn about his company, Artist Blacksmith, and his ties to the local community as a recent Hampshire College grad.  Jacob’s passion and enthusiasm for his work and for the local area was just palpable.  He impressed me as the type of young entrepreneur who we were fortunate had stayed in the Valley. After Jacob learned of my  role in managing the Lord Jeff Inn project he made a strong pitch for providing artisan services to craft wrought iron hardware elements.  I took  a leap of faith and engaged Artist Blacksmith to fabricate architectural elements for the LJI.  No surprise, Jacob’s work was exquisite!!!  We are now looking forward to using Jacob on many more Amherst College projects and hope that the local business community will use Artist Blacksmith for their projects. 

Buy local….   your Chamber at work!!!!

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<![CDATA[Reflecting on a beautiful Taste weekend . . .]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Reflecting-on-a-beautiful-Taste-weekend---/
   By Tony Maroulis              (1) Comments

What a weekend!

The 2012 Taste of Amherst, presented by Atkins Farms Country Market, was one of the most successful Tastes on record. With sparkling weather - neither too hot (like today! Yeesh!) or at all rainy - this year's event was spectacular.

Twenty four restaurants, great music, an enhanced kids' area, great beer and wine, cooking demos, the Forest Park Zoo, and the Cat In The Hat, all made for an amazing four days on the Amherst Town Common.

Each year, the event committee tries to add a new wrinkle to the event. We're always looking to make it even better than the year before. From the entertainment side of things, we focused on the kids' area. with more activities, the return of a Rockwall and Bungie Jump, story times, and more, we did our job there. However, led by Jerry Jolly of the Pub and then guided by Susan Waite of the Amherst Department of Public Works, we worked to go green. We vowed to reduce our waste by at least one third, and asked our restaurants to help us achieve that goal by using compostable products. 

The results aren't in yet, but a quick sight analysis indicated that we reduced our solid, non-compostable waste by more than half. I'll have a final total in the next day or two, and I look forward to sharing that with you then.

I never quite thought I'd ever be so excited about recycling and composting. One of the fun aspects of my job is the varied tasks that I get to do. On Saturday at the Taste, in one of the most disgusting, yet fun, things I had ever done, I was jumping like a wine maker on compostable garbage bags to make more room in the dumpster. I'm sure I looked silly, but it was all for a good cause.

Many, many thanks to all who had worked to make this Taste a big success. This would be an incredibly long post were I to name everyone, but in brief - the Taste committee, led by chair John Thibbitts, Jerry and Aaron Jolly, Chef Bill Collins, David Mazor, Lois Grandmaison from MercyHouse, Scott Howard of WRSI, Art Steele, our participating restaurants (see Facebook.com/TasteofAmherst for more details), Youssef Fadel, the town of Amherst DPW, APD, AFD, Inspection Services, the guys at Marney Electric, and all of our incredible volunteers who helped us make this run smoothly. All told, over 100 organizations participate in this event. They help put smiles on the faces of our friends and neighbors who support the event year after year. 

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<![CDATA[From the Chamber Board of Directors, Vol. 2 OR Why Networking is Fun and Lucrative]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/From-the-Chamber-Board-of-Directors-Vol-2-OR-Why-Networking-is-Fun-and-Lucrative/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

By Cinda Jones
President, WD Cowls Land Company
Past President, AACC Board of Directors, 2007-08

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of blog posts by the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors


I’m so excited about the upcoming After 5 at Conlin and Sawicki offices on University Drive on Wednesday the 27 th . That is always an EXCELLENT attended party. Great people.  Lots of people.  Amazing networking. OUTSIDE under a tent so it’s an instant party.  Lots of cool give aways.

Networking is such a buzz-kind-of-word it kind of falls flat.  But here’s why you need to do Chamber networking events:  People get work opportunities and social opportunities and friends and contacts that they can’t get anywhere else when they socialize with us.  Plus there’s great food and drink.  And cool locations to check out.  

I hired a graphic designer and advertising dude I met at an After 5.  He’s great.  Never would have met him otherwise.  I met a potential tenant at an After 5, who I turned down, my husband rented to, and I got the tenant a connection at Amherst College at an After 5 that got him so much work that he easily could pay my husband rent!! J I am buying my life insurance from someone I met at a Chamber breakfast.  My attorney sponsors breakfasts.  My printer is a Chamber member.  And because the Chamber staff know my name and what I’m doing, because I attend CoC events and talk with them, they recommend me when an opportunity in my field comes up.

So c’mon – come to The University Drive After 5 next week, and all future networking events.  It’s fun.  It’s lucrative.  And you’ll grow smarter just walking in the door.

Thanks for reading.

 

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<![CDATA[YUM!! Taste of Amherst, Presented by Atkins Farms Country Market Menus]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/YUM-Taste-of-Amherst-Presented-by-Atkins-Farms-Country-Market-Menus/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

A little something to whet your appetite . . .

30 Boltwood: 1. Watermelon Gazpacho 2. Chicken Panzanella

Amherst Brewing Company: 1. Cheeseburger 2. Hot Dog 3. Pulled Pork Chili

Amherst Chinese Food: 1. Vegetable Lo Mein 2. Vegetable Fried Rice 3. Egg Roll 4. Chicken Fingers

Atkins Farms Country Market: 1. Cider donuts 2. Whoopie Pies 3. Apple Pie 4. Caramel Dipped Apples

Baku's African Restaurant: 1. jollof rice, beans 2. Chicken 3. Plantains 4. Black-eyed Peas 5. Mango Juice 6. Cinnamon Iced Tea

Bart's Ice Cream: 1. Root Beer Float 2. Scooped Ice Cream 3. Hot Fudge Sundae

Champney's Restaurant and Tavern: 1. Belgian Fries and Dips

Chandler's Restaurant: 1. Smoked Chicken Wings 2. New England Clam Chowder 3. Strawberry Shortcake 

Ginger Garden: 1. Vegetable Lo Mein 2. Pork Fried Rice 3. Gneral Tso's Chicken 4. California Roll 5. Fried Dumpling

House of Teriyaki: 1. Chicken Teriyaki 2. Salmon Donburi 3. Beet Gyola 4. Seaweed Salad

La Veracruzana: 1. Chicken or Beef Quesadillas 2. Tacos 3. Horchata 4. Tamarindo

Lhasa Cafe: 1. Beef Dumplings 2. Vegetable Potato Dumplings 3.Chicken Curry/Rice 4. Aam Thara (Mango Yogury Shake) 5. Hot Chai Tea

Lime Red Teahouse: 1. Mango Tea 2. Peach Tea 3. Strawberry Tea 4. Yogurt Tea 5. Lychee Tea

Lit: 1. Lamb Sliders 2. 3 Cheese Grilled Cheese 3. Fresh Fruit Salad 4. Banana Nutella Spring Rolls 5. Fish Tacos

Maple Valley Ice Cream: 1. Ice Cream

Moti: 1. Famous NY Chicken and Lamb 2. Steak Wrap 3. Chicken Wrap 4. Grape Leaves 5. Hummus

Nancy Jane's: 1. Italian Sausage and Chicken Kabobs 2. Louisiana Rice 3. Corn Fritters 4. Clam Fritterrs 5. Nancy Jane's Famous Lemonade 6. Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Panda East: 1. House Special Chicken 2. Veggie Fried Rice 3. Crab Rangoon 4. Cold Noodles with Sesame Sauce 5. seaweed Salad 5. California Roll

Paradise of India: 1. Chicken Tikka Masala 2. Chana Sag/Chana Masala 3. Paneer Masala 4. Samosa, veg. pakora 5. Riben Fry 6. Mango Lassi

SouperBowl: 1. Lobster Bisque 2. New England Clam Chowder 3. Heirloom Gazpacho 4. Peach-Mango Yogurt Soup 5. Strawberry Yogurt Soup 6. Avacado Smoothie

Thai Corner: 1. Chicken Satay 2. Green Curry-Chicken/Tofu 3. Chciekn with Ginger Garlic 4. Pad Thai Chicken/ Tofu 5. Basil Chicken 6. Thai Iced Tea

The Loose Goose Cafe: 1. Panini - Mozzarella/Pesto 2. Smoked Turkey Panini 3. Tomato and Chicken Panini 4. Homemade Mac n'Cheese 5. Chocolate drop Darts 6. Smoothies

The Pub: 1. Pulled Pork Sandwich 2. Lobster Sliders 3. Stuffed Baked Potatoes 4. Fried Dough w/Strawberries 5. Hadley Asparagus Fries

White Hut: 1. Fries with famous fried onions and cheese 2. Onion Rings


 

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<![CDATA[Amherst BID Appoints Alex Krogh-Grabbe Executive Director]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Amherst-BID-Appoints-Alex-Krogh-Grabbe-Executive-Director/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

The Chamber extends its congratulations to Alex Krogh-Grabbe on his recent sppointment as the new executive director of the Amherst Business Improvement District.

We look forward to working with Alex in the months and years ahead!

From a recent release from the BID:
 

AMHERST, Mass (May 21, 2012) – The Amherst Business Improvement District has appointed Alex Krogh-Grabbe its first executive director at the May meeting of its Board of Directors. The unanimous 11-0 vote came after a presentation by the Board’s Search Committee, which named Krogh-Grabbe its top choice among 16 candidates and 3 finalists.

 

A graduate of Connecticut College and Tufts University, Alex Krogh-Grabbe returns to the town in which he was born and raised to run the newly established organization, which is only the 8th BID in the Commonwealth. His start date is June 1.

 

“We are excited about the energy that Alex will bring to this position and are looking forward to hitting the ground running,” says Barry Roberts, president of the Amherst BID. “He’s from here, cares about this community, and has the smarts to help our downtown succeed.”

 

Krogh-Grabbe joins the newly formed Amherst BID, seven months after its November formation by an Amherst Select Board vote. By definition, a BID is a designated area in which property owners choose to initiate, manage and finance services to supplement, but not replace, the baseline of town services for the benefit of district employees, students, residents and visitors.

 

The 26-year old Krogh-Grabbe formerly worked in financial development at WFCR before returning to his studies at Tufts University in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning. His areas of focus at Tufts included transportation planning, creating sustainable communities, and economic development. Krogh-Grabbe’s master’s thesis focused on collaborative planning practices as they related to the the Gateway Corridor plan in Amherst and a similar project between the University of Connecticut and Storrs.

 

“The BID board is really excited about having Alex on board and about our chances for success,” says Jerry Jolly, the BID’s vice president. “In addition to the commitment by the landlords to the BID, we have the support of the town, UMass, and Amherst College. Having the institutional partners on board really shows the deep support for our downtown and its success.”

 

The core elements of the initial 3-year BID plan are designed to create downtown Amherst as a special destination that includes welcoming public spaces, multi-use sidewalks and a sense of vibrancy through marketing, special events, dining and entertainment experiences that appeal to a wide range of audiences.

 

The Amherst BID area covers the downtown commercial district from UMass at the northern end to the Town Common at its southern tip. It also includes the Main Street commercial district which runs east from the Town Common through to Railroad St.

 

For more information on the Amherst BID, please visit www.amherstbid.com.

 

                                                            ###

For more on Alex, check out Larry Kelley's take
And the story from the Daily Hampshire Gazette (subscription required). 

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<![CDATA[Networking Secrets from an Ex-Wallflower]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Networking-Secrets-from-an-Ex-Wallflower/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

By Joan Temkin
Membership and Marketing Director

                                                                 Val Nelson (left) teaching the tools of the networking trade

                                           Val Nelson (left) teaching with a workshop participant.


At our latest Brown Bag gathering, almost 30 people participated in the workshop, Networking Secrets from an Ex-Wallflower, presented by Val Nelson, Career and Business Coach.

This was one of our most popular Brown Bag events yet! We struck a chord with this topic.

Val had promised that everyone would leave the Brown Bag with relaxed shoulders and new ideas for improving their networking skills, and she delivered.  The presentation included some effective interactive exercises. The photo shows Val with a participant enjoying a networking demo.

By the end, participants went from being hesitant to passionate about their next networking opportunity.

As a perfect extension, or for those who couldn't attend, Val is now forming a short-term group called Heart-Centered Networking Momentum Group. It's designed to help people have more ease, authenticity, and impact with networking. Group members will define their who, what, where, and when of networking... and even what to wear. Details here:  http://www.valnelson.com/nmg

 

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<![CDATA[From the Chamber Board of Directors, Vol. 1]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/From-the-Chamber-Board-of-Directors-Vol-1/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

By Kathryn Grandonico
Lincoln Real Estate
Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce
President, Board of Directors

Kathryn Grandonico

Editor's Note - This is the first in a weekly series of blog posts from our Chamber Board of Directors.


During a recent Chamber board session where we were discussing the organization’s goals, accomplishments and what our future direction should be, it occurred to me that there are many ways in which the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce touches the lives of our community and our businesses on a daily basis. So I suggested a board project, to blog about our experiences as Chamber members with all of you. As members, we experience what you do, and can relate to your struggles, work, and issues. We know why you’ve joined –because we have, too – and what makes the Chamber important to your business.

Beginning this week, each of our board members will write a blog submission to begin a dialogue with not only our members, but the community. We want to have a transparent organization. If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know. Any of our members are encouraged to write on our blog as well. (Did you know that we created a new website where every member has their own porthole which they can update at any time: submit events, create member to member discounts, advertise, pay for dues and so much more?!)

How has the chamber impacted me recently?

On Thursday April 12, as the Amherst Area Chamber President, I attended a welcoming event for our town's new building inspector, Robert Morra. It was one of the most hopeful events I've attended in some time. Town hall officials. the police and fire departments, local business owners, members of the chamber, and members of the publiic all were there. Everyone was laughing and smiling and speaking about the potential for Amherst. The optimism in the room was tangible and might I add, refreshing. We are at the tipping point for greatness and prosperity. We’ve survived the difficult financial times and we are on an upswing for success.

The second event I attended was for the "Ground Breaking" for the Amherst survival center at the old Rooster's location in North Amherst. The AACC awarded the Amherst survival center an AACC A+ award this past year and with good reason. Did you know that over 200 people a day are helped by the center? In one week I was able to see success on a business development and community front; all of which were touched by the AACC. Congratulations Mr. Morra and the Amherst Survival Center. I wish you both great success!

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<![CDATA[Margarita Madness!]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Margarita-Madness/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

So this is a rewrite of a great post that I wrote earlier and lost. I hope I remember everything.

The Chamber's first-ever Margarita Madness took place this past Wednesday at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. What a great evening. Almost 200 Chamber folk and members of the public were in attendance to sample a slew of spectacular tequila mixes by Chandler's Restaurant (by the way, check out Undercover Boss this weekend, as Yankee Candle CEO Harlan Kent will star), Elegant Affairs, The Pub, Johnny's Tavern, Judie's Restaurant, 30Boltwood, Lit/Moti, Encharter Insurance, Florence Savings Bank, Hope and Feathers Framing, NEPM, and Country Nissan/Northampton Volkswagon. 

Needless to say, as is my want, and it is my job, I sampled them all. I couldn't pick a favorite (what did you expect me to say?). But the crowd did speak. NEPM won for best business margarita. Judie's took best in the restaurant class. Overall winner was 30Boltwood with their beet-flavored margarita (locally grown!). 

We couldn't have done this without our participants and our sponsors - MassLive.com, Valley Advocate, Daily Hampshire Gazette, Applewood, Greenfield Savings Bank, Country Nissan/Northampton Volkswagon, Mix 93.1 (who sent their morning team Zito and Karen!), and Copy Cat Print Shop. Also, a big cheer to the Carle for hosting a wonderful event. The Museum turns 10 this year. I was at the first party waaaay back, and they still know how to have fun there! (Make sure to check out Kadir Nelson's exhibition before it leaves town.) Big ups to Alix Kennedy and her whole staff - Megan, Rebecca, Rosemary, Annie, Sandy (!), and Susan -  for making us feel welcome and comfortable.

The event doesn't happen without the brainstorm and dedication by Youssef Fadel, a past Chamber president, margarita champion, and MVP of this organization. Youssef just rocks and rallied our team, which included Joan Temkin (who led, as usual, on the staff end), Phil Ciccarelli of Murphy McCoubrey, and Tom Crossman of Crossman Properties. Youssef also brought in Suzanne Boniface who made this event hum by getting all the sponsors, media, and planning together. Great job all and thank you!

 

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<![CDATA[Recent Chamber and Community News for February 1-21!]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Recent-Chamber-and-Community-News-for-February-1-21/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

Just for fun, and because I'm so far behind in posting, I thought that I might post with some links to recent Amherst Area Chamber and business news. Lots has gone on, and here's a good way for our readers to catch up.

The month got off to a rousing start, as the Chamber welcomed Amherst College President Biddy Martin to our February breakfast. We look forward to exciting times here in town with President Martin at the helm. Larry Kelley, local blogger extraordinaire covered the event. You can read all about it (and see it) here

The Chamber was pleased to contribute to the Springfield Republican's Outlook 2012 section this month. We took an appropriately optimistic tone for 2012, which we hope you'll agree is bright. Here's our contribution, but do read through the "Reinventing the Valley" insert. There's so much going on throughout the Valley. It truly feels like we're on the cusp of something grand. 

If you aren't paying attention, there's a whole bunch of great new restaurants to complement our already terrific cuilinary stock. Don't worry . . . I'm trying them all out for you

Chamber member and B and B owner Connie Kruger is helping to create a better permitting system in Amherst. Good luck and thank you, Connie! 

The Amherst Area Chamber congratulates UMass Deputy Chancellor Todd Diacon on his new appointment as Provost at Kent State. We're sad to lose such an important figure in our improved Town/Gown relations. You'll be missed, Todd.

Great news for downtown Amherst! The Amherst BID has officially formed as of last Thursday. To learn more about the BID click here. Those exciting gentlemen in the video have been great leaders in getting this initiative off the ground. The Chamber looks forward to an important and fruitful partnership with the BID in the months - and years - to come!

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<![CDATA[You catch more bees with honey]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/You-catch-more-bees-with-honey/
   By Tony Maroulis              (4) Comments

I'm going to personal blog today. I've got some stuff on my mind, and few readers at this point, so I think I'm safe. Also, I think the personal has more universal applications. Hopefully, I'll get some feedback that tells me I'm right. Or wrong.

"You catch more bees with honey . . ." That's today's motto.

I've been a crab lately. That happens when you work in New England. We're a seafood people, even out here in the sticks. Winter can get you hard. And when you work in an office with one window but you have a little nook without access to that daylight (my plight), it's easy to get crustacean or snarly or both.

So that has been me lately. That's the personal part. I've been in a bad mood.

But here's the universal part. Bad moods don't work. They make work terrible. Terrible attitudes yield commensurate results.

Generally when I'm in this mode, I try to fake it. But you can only fake it so long before someone calls you on it, or it catches up to you because that sentence that you think is innocuous is unusually harsh.

Sometimes for me that plays out in the public.  I get to satisfy my fantasy of being a journalist with my monthly column in the Amherst Bulletin. In that column space, I'm occasionally ready to rumble (at least as long as it takes me to write the column). As it was in my Decemeber column, I think my corn flakes were tampered with and I was unusually grumpy: "Village Center growth is key". The feedback I got from readers was pretty mixed. Even those who agreed with me did so through pursed lips and clenched fists.

However, the following month's column: "Passing peace pipe over dinner" (we didn't smoke a pipe, by the way . . .) was one that I received some accolades for. The pats on the back for the piece were jovial and releaved. Folks happily talked to me about what I wrote this month. Much love.

What do I take from all of this? A rather simplistic, but mostly easy to follow rule: your mood dictates how your business operates. That face you put on that the world sees is tied to your success or failure. 

A few years ago, the Chamber launched its A+ Campaign, with our slogan, The Amherst Area: A Perfect Place . . . The campaign was meant to counterbalance the long prevailing view of the town as a difficult place to open, to get permitting, to do anything.

We get the occasional smirks from cynics, and have been hit with some inventive chalk graffitti next our front door, but for the most part, the campaign has corresponded with a more optimistic view of the town as a place for business. We're getting things done here because we believe we can. Optimism makes a difference.

So what do you think? Am I nuts? Are you glass half-fuller? Why?

Join me in smiles and thank yous. Tell me how it goes.

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<![CDATA[The Chamber's Week in Review (Jan 9-13)]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/The-Chambers-Week-in-Review-Jan-9-13/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

Last week was pretty busy, which kept me from blogging as I promised I would. So, here's the Chamber week that was, January 9-13, 2012.

The big Chamber news last week was our January breakfast and Annual Meeting, sponsored by Elite Home Health Agency and held at the Courtyard by Marriott in Hadley. if you've been following the blog, the papers, and our social media feeds, you'd know that the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce has a new president for the first time in two years in Lincoln Real Estate's Kathryn Grandonico. Kathryn delivered a terrific address, which laid out her objectives for 2012. Among her goals for the year are to work with the newly formed Business Improvement District, to create better signage for the downtown, and to support our work with the Hampshire County Regional Tourism Council (RTC). Kathryn's energy was on full display, and I look forward to a productive and exciting year ahead.

As is custom, as Executive Director, I also get to address the Chamber audience. This is the first year that I'll be the "senior partner" in the Chamber leadership, as Kathryn is our youngest ever president at 31. I was able to get a few laughs out of the audience on that before seguing into the more important business of what the Chamber was able to accomplish in the past few years. I covered a lot of that in the last blog post, so I won't go over that again here. What I will say once more here, however, is that in order to continue to be successful, we need the support and participation of all of our membership. The business community has a lot of momentum and needs many hands to continue our positive changes here in the Amherst area.

Tourism, tourism, tourism . . . The Hampshire County RTC has dominated much of the Chamber's activities in the new year. Along with our partners at the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, we're working to assemble our advisory group, finalize our workplan through the RTC fiscal year ending June 30, and to invest our grant award into Hampshire County's tourism and hospitality industries.

On Thursday, the Hampshire RTC Advisory Committee met at the newly reopened, and spectacular Lord Jeffery Inn. We had a great meeting in a spectacular setting. We're moving full steam ahead now as we're working on a few joint projects with our sister RTCs in Springfield (GSCVB) and Franklin County, most especially on a comprehensive Pioneer Valley Guide, spearheaded by the GSCVB.

The PV Guide is a more comprehensive version of past editions. Each and every member of each of our organizations will have a listing in the guide, making it more robust and necessary for the visitor. We're really excited about the direction of the guide and look forward to its publication. For Chamber members, we'll have more infomation in the coming days about how you can advertise in the guide, which has a circulation of 125,000.

Some other work that we've committed to is a partnership with CISA to promote their Valley Farm Products guide beyond the area. In an enhanced run of 15,000 copies, we'll distribute this guide to the Boston area with additional editorial on local agritourism and farm festivals. It's an exciting way to promote one of the defining pieces of Hampshire County.

Just a few more quick notes - WinterFest is coming up and the planning for the event continues in earnest. The Chamber is not the organizer of the event this year - that's in the hands of our friends at Amherst Leisure Services - but we're a sponsor of the event. Do mark your calendar for February 11 and pray for snow!

Tomorrow, January 18, is our January After 5 at the Lord Jeff. We expect a terrific crowd to come out to see the refurbished heart of Amherst's downtown. The ballroom looks great, and Robert and Robin were getting things ready for a fun night. I can't wait. My wife and I spent an evening pretending we were tourists on Saturday as we stayed over and had dinner at 30Boltwood. I can't recommend it enough.

That's the week that was . . . how was your week?

 

 

 

 

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<![CDATA[A Broad (and Biased) Look Back at 2011 (and 09 and 10)]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/A-Broad-and-Biased-Look-Back-at-2011-and-09-and-10/
   By Tony Maroulis              (1) Comments

This morning the Chamber's Executive Committee had its monthly meeting. For the first time in 2 years, the composition of the Executive Committee has changed, and as a result, on the agenda was a discussion of the organization's goals for 2012.

It's an interesting exercise. I have to admit, given how fast the past three years has gone since I've been in this position, the occasional check in is necessary. It's also a good time to reflect on how we've done as an organization.

I truly believe that we've done an exemplary job in the midst of a terrible economy. Like most Chambers, we have lost some members. We've gone down considerably from a high of 600 members in 2007 at the height of the bubble economy. However since 2008/early 2009, which was the beginning of the worst of the recession, we've stayed within a 500-525 member range. Either that is a demonstration of habit on the part of the accounting departments of our membership - someone is just rubberstamping Chamber renewal - or it demonstrates, as I believe it does, our value to the business community.

And what is that value? I was teased by a friend today who listed a number of accomplishments he has overseen with the question:What has the Chamber done? It was a perfect zinger to the email exchange, but it got me thinking how important it is that we list our accomplishments and beat our chests a bit.

Since 2008, the Chamber has done the following:

  • Successfully advocated for the adoption of Amherst's Comprehensive Planning Document;
  • Helped form the downtown's Business Improvement District;
  • Formed, along with Northampton, Hampshire County's Regional Tourism Council (a wish for over 25 years);
  • Created the Amherst Future initiative;
  • Created stronger regional ties among fellow Hampshire County and Pioneer Valley Chambers of Commerce;
  • Advocated successfully to streamline construction permitting in Town Hall.

While I think we've been visible, since the nature of the work is mostly behind the scenes it can get lost. I'm often asked about our organization as a value proposition for entrepreneurs and small business. What do you do for me?

Because of what we do, you can get open sooner, and with less red tape. Working with us, we can advocate and make sure that your concerns are heard with town and state governments. In a storm or an emergency situation, we can make the call on your behalf to the power company, because we have the relationships. We can't put money in your register with a magic wand, but we have been working on creating the conditions for growth. Our work helps you want to be here, and want to stay here.

 

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<![CDATA[Chamber Changes for 2012]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Chamber-Changes-for-2012/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

Happy New Year!

It's a time for renewal, rebirth, and resolution.

Looking at teh number of blog posts I've put up since the new Amherstarea.com site went live, I'll make one resolution now: I'll blog more this year, and try to make it a worthwhile read. A blog isn't really all that worthwhile if we're not adding to it. And as we all know, there's always a lot to report in the Amherst area.

So far, the kickoff to 2012 has been very exciting. We've got new restaurants that have opened and are opening (more on that later this week), and some Chamber changes. Many of them will be unveiled next Wednesday morning at 7:30am at the Courtyard by Marriott in Hadley.

For the first time in two years, the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce will have a new leader at the helm in Kathryn Grandonico of Lincoln Real Estate.

Kathryn has been on the Chamber's Executive Committee for the past four years, serving as a Vice President, the last two as 1st VP. She is a member of the Chamber's Government Affairs Committee, chaired the Chamber's recent website committee, and on the Merry Maple committee. She is a member of Promoting Downtown Amherst, and has been a member of Amherst's Design Review Board.

A second generation Amherst-based business owner, Kathryn manages Lincoln Real Estate's extensive residential and commercial holdings in Northampton, Hadley, and Amherst. One fun fact - Kathryn is the youngest-ever Chamber president at 31 (if our spotty records are correct!).

The Chamber's Executive Committee also includes Larry Archey, Hampshire College (1st VP); Lyne Kendall, UMass Small Business Development Center Network (2nd VP); Mark Ellsworth, Center for Extended Care (Treasurer); Nancy Buffone, UMass University Relations and Events (Secretary); Jim Brassord, Amherst College (at large); and Molly Keegan, Davis Financial Group, LLC (Immediate Past President).

Rounding out the board are the following (term expiration in parenthesis):

  • Aaron Jolly, The Pub (2013)
  • Meredith Schmidt, UMass Campus Center (2013)
  • Jacqueline Zuzgo, Jones Group Realty (2013)
  • David Perlmutter, The Daily Hampshire Gazette (2013)
  • Cinda Jones, W.D. Cowls (2013)
  • Niels la Cour, UMass Planning (2014)
  • Felicity Hardee, Bulkley Richardson & Gelinas (2014)
  • Jerry Guidera, Center for Cross Cultural Study (2014)
  • Reza Rahmani, Moti and Lit (2014)
  • Meghan Gregoire, PeoplesBank (2014)
  • Barry Roberts, EV Realty Trust (2014)

Thank you to each and every one of the Chamber's board members for their time, energy, and efforts that go into creating a successful business climate for the Amherst Area. Their (mostly) unseen dedication is a gift to the entire business community.

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<![CDATA[Paul Codding Jones]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Paul-Codding-Jones/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

Last week, Amherst lost one of its titans of business with the passing of Paul C. Jones. Paul was an 8th Generation President, and then chairman of the board, of W.D. Cowls, Inc. He was probably most known for building Cowls Building Supply, his family's retail store in North Amherst. The Chamber sends its best wishes to his wife, Ruth Owen Jones, his children Cinda and Evan, and the entire Jones family.

A memorial service will be held at North Congregational Church, tonight, Monday, November 28 at 5:30pm.

Below, in its entirety, is his obituary.

 

Paul Codding Jones, 69, died Nov. 21, 2011, following a short illness. Paul was born in North Amherst, son of the late Sarah (Hartman) and Walter Cowls Jones. With his brother Denison (DH) and sister Gertrude, he represented the eighth generation of the Cowls family to grow up on the historic Home Farm on Montague Road and manage the family business. Paul leaves his wife, Ruth Owen Jones; two children, Cinda and Evan; and three grandchildren, Hannah, Rachael and Samuel Jones.

Paul Jones grew up as an active member of the North Amherst Boy Scouts, attending the National Jamboree in Valley Forge, Pa., and the International Jamboree in England (where scouting began) in 1957.

Paul was a 1959 graduate of Amherst Regional High School, attended Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He was an elected member of Tau Beta Pi, the National Engineering Honor Society. As a member of the UMass Skydiving Club, Paul made 65 jumps. Paul served as an Amherst volunteer fireman and on the fireman's muster team, reporting to the North Amherst station on Pine Street.

Paul married his high school sweetheart, Ruth Owen, one week after their UMass graduation. The wedding reception was held in the University's then-brand new Student Union.

Paul started his career as an engineer at Boston Edison and returned to the area to work for Western Massachusetts Electric Co. before returning to the family business.

As the eventual eighth generation president and then chairman of the board of W.D. Cowls Inc., Paul managed the family's timberland management, lumber manufacturing, real estate and building supply business. The May 13, 1981, Amherst Bulletin read "Paul Jones is one of those people about whom everything is fast. The way he walks, the way he drives, the way he gives orders." In this article Paul was also described as being a meticulous planner and a careful decision maker. His love of growing the family business was characterized by his comment, "I figure every day I'm at work, I'm on vacation."

Paul built Riverside Park Apartments and Stores adjacent to the North Amherst Post Office in the 1970s. In 1980, Paul Jones built Cowls Building Supply, a retail store that featured Cowls sawmill products as a specialty. He expanded the planer mill operation to include a timber sizer and a new planer-notcher, and finished locally harvested sawmill products for retail sales.

Paul and Robert K. Patterson partnered to build numerous North Amherst roads, and they sold over 120 house lots. Streets built by Patterson-Jones include Blackberry Lane Extension (twice), Jason Court, Kingman Road, Sacco Drive, Tuckerman Lane, Cherry Lane Extension, Weaver Circle and Emily Lane (and extension). With Bob Patterson, Paul bought the Barkowski Farm, and, after Bob's death, with his children, Paul developed the Barkowski Farm into Owen Drive and a 20 acre farmhouse lot on Teawaddle Lane. With a larger family partnership he built Lawrence Circle.

Throughout his life, Paul instilled in his children a passion for family, the family business and making the most out of every minute. He would take his young children on tours of local factories and to enterprises of suppliers and customers. He delighted in woods walks, tree identification and wreath making. He had a vision of progress, and a love of Johnny Cash music, that were contagious. To his growing children, his mantra was, "Make us proud," and his tip for lifetime success was, "The harder you work, the luckier you get."

Paul was a past master of the Pacific Lodge of Masons and a Shriner, and served on the boards of the Three County Fair, the Northeast Lumber Manufacturers Association and the Northeast Retail Lumber Association. He was a vocal Amherst Town Meeting member for many years, encouraging sustainable progress.

Paul was a skilled woodworker who made fine furniture and built-ins, but he especially enjoyed making games and toys with and for his grandkids. He once refused a wood burning tool that stamped "Handcrafted by Paul C. Jones" onto his creations, and insisted it be returned for one instead that read "Thrown Together by Paul C. Jones." He was a modest and understated Yankee.

Paul Jones was an excellent water skier, having grown up summering at the family camp on Lake Wyola. One can still hear him yell, "Hit it!" as he jumped off the end of the dock on one waterski as the slack line tightened up.

He enjoyed traveling with his wife, Ruth, and their friends, preparing elaborate meals, and entertaining.

Donations in Paul's memory can be made to the North Amherst Troop of the Boy Scouts of America. Donations may be sent to Troop 504, c/o People's United Bank, 25 East Pleasant St., Amherst, MA 01002.

 

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<![CDATA[Recent Articles on Form Based Zoning]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Recent-Articles-on-Form-Based-Zoning/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

Hi Folks - Below, please find 3 articles on Form Based Code and Zoning that have recently appeared in the Bulletin/Gazette. Normally, we wouldn't print the entire article, but wanted to make sure that members, and the public, can read the most recent articles on the topic.



Editorial: Back to the future on Amherst zoning (also run as Zoning for the Future in the Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Change is hard. When change is also hard to explain, it can be nearly impossible.

In a few days, Town Meeting members will consider tweaking Amherst's zoning map to encourage certain types of development in two of the town's designated village centers, North Amherst and Atkins Corner. This style of development, which seeks to cluster projects in historic centers and preserve outlying open space, goes under the fuzzy name of form-based zoning.

While not an idea ahead of its time, public understanding of it clearly lags. At a Planning Board meeting Oct. 19, one resident asked if the town could produce a 3-D model of the concept. Just adding more words to the definition, she warned, wouldn't help her understand.

That's the sort of challenge Town Meeting members face. And as they work to find the merits and minuses of this proposal, they will be listening to claims from some North Amherst residents that form-based zoning would bring unwanted change to their neighborhood.

Today on Page 1, we offer a Q&A on the zoning proposal, which grew out of meetings this summer aided by the Cecil Group, a Boston consulting firm.

For years, Amherst has seen the wisdom of directing growth into its village centers. We believe that the zoning plan now on the table is well-considered and rises out of good ideas that the community has already embraced. The two village centers that would be affected have already been identified in the town's master plan.

While the language of the zoning proposal is new, the concept is not. Once upon a time, before zoning bylaws existed, New England communities grew up in tight clusters around churches, mills and shops. Today, regular zoning normally specifies what's allowed in a particular district. In North Amherst, some tracts that could be developed are already classified as commercial, so their owners are relatively free to pursue projects of that type.

The new zoning is designed to guide both the mix of uses in a village center and the look of what's built with an eye to creating, over time, a place that is commercially vital but also appealing and human-scale. It seeks to preserve a community's character and encourage social activity. At the same time, its provisions aim to "calm" traffic, tuck parking lots behind buildings, embrace sustainable building design, encourage public transit and bicycling and, in general, connect with a village center's "historic fabric."

Read deep into the Cecil Group's definitions of form-based zoning and it can start to sound like a fairy tale - a pedestrian-friendly land of tree-lined streets where people live, work and obtain the goods and services they need.

Whether it remains an idea depends on Town Meeting, where form-based zoning will come up Nov. 16 and must win two-thirds support.

As is often the case, the pursuit of tomorrow clashes with the gripes of today - and a big one, for people in North Amherst and elsewhere, is concern about seeing their neighborhood become the home of even more University of Massachusetts undergraduates.

Those worries came out at the Oct. 19 public hearing that the Planning Board held and will no doubt be considered by Town Meeting members. Residents of Montague Road have asked why their zoning would change from "neighborhood residence" to "village center residence." They object because the change would allow multi-family dwellings with up to 10 units in each building in the residential section and up to 25 units in each building in the envisioned mixed-use commercial area.

Planners respond that it makes no sense to take the area of Montague Road that is close to the North Amherst center out of the "village" it is already in.

The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce is on board with the zoning shift because it views it as good for commercial growth in the village centers. The proposed zoning makes no bones about sharing that goal - and in these times, if that can be done in ways that keep Amherst livable, that's for the good. The zoning proposal says right up front one of its purposes is to "protect and expand opportunities for small locally owned businesses and entrepreneurial activity ...."

Planners better come to Town Meeting with a lot of patience, for this proposal will be rightly scrutinized. We ask that meeting members remember that while change can be hard, it is needed if Amherst is to reach for an economically vibrant future. Form-based zoning respects the past while looking ahead and deserves to be voted into the town's planning toolbox.

 

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Questions & answers on whether form-based zoning benefits North Amherst

Friday, November 4, 2011

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GORDON DANIELS
A view of a section of Montague Road in North Amherst that would be included in the new village center residence zone. Residents in the homes on the right side of the street are concerned about intense residential development that may occur across the street.

Town Meeting will be asked to consider a zoning change in which form-based code would be applied to the village centers in North Amherst and Atkins Corner. Like all zoning changes, it will need two-thirds majority support from Town Meeting to be adopted. Multiple sessions of Town Meeting begin Monday at 7 p.m. in the Amherst Regional Middle School auditorium. The zoning question is scheduled to be taken up Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m.

Following are some questions and answers related to the proposed zoning:

What is form-based code?

Unlike regular zoning, which specifies the allowed uses in a particular district, form-based code adds another layer that attempts to achieve a specific appearance or mix of uses that is desired by a given community.

The Cecil Group, a Boston-based company hired to draft zoning plans that could lead to the revitalization of North Amherst and an emerging mixed-use district at Atkins Corner, writes on its website, "Form-Base Code is a relatively new and innovative method of managing growth and shaping development."

Why is form-based code being proposed for North Amherst and Atkins Corner village centers?

The town's master plan supports so-called smart growth principles that include concentrating development in already developed areas as a way of preserving open space. These are two village centers identified in the master plan, adopted by the Planning Board, as ripe for both new development and redevelopment.

In North Amherst, property that could be redeveloped includes the former site of the W.D. Cowls sawmill. At Atkins Corner, construction of a loop road that goes behind Atkins Farms Country Market is expected to be the spur for new commercial development to support the nearby community.

What will this rezoning do?

Supporters say the rezoning will make viable village centers a reality while assuring neighbors a consistency in the look and feel of buildings and parking that will be tucked behind buildings.

Critics say streamlining the development process could lead to development that is not properly regulated and will spur construction of off-campus housing for students, particularly in North Amherst, where the form-based code would be accompanied by a zoning change on Montague Road.

Why is the rezoning in North Amherst controversial?

While form-based code has support from many people who have been following the process, it is the inclusion of a portion of Montague Road, and the rezoning of this stretch from neighborhood residence to village center residence, that has elicited the most concern.

This creates the possibility of large-scale residential development that would allow multi-family dwellings, with up to 10 units per building in the residential corridor and up to 25 units per building in the mixed-use commercial area.

Residents also see it as going against the ideas they espoused at a public design study led by The Cecil Group in May that the homes along Montague Road north of Mill River Recreation Area should not be part of the North Amherst Village Center.

Why would the zoning on Montague Road change from neighborhood residence to village center residence?

The idea is that some of Montague Road should be included in the village center zoning so that services will develop to meet residents' needs. Jonathan O'Keeffe, chairman of the Zoning Subcommittee, said isolating this section from the village center would not be consistent with the vision of density in village centers to protect open space in outlying areas of town.

How soon could changes occur in the village centers?

The timing of any developments would be up to those who own the properties and the length of time needed for developers to obtain permits.

Both Cinda Jones and Barbara Puffer Garnier, who own the properties most likely to be developed, have either shown plans or contemplated ideas for how the land they own could be developed.

What financial benefits would the town see?

The Finance Committee's report to Town Meeting indicates that form-based code could allow for "a faster, more predictable and more economical outcome" for developers, and the town would benefit from projects more quickly.

The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce also supports the rezoning because form-based code can be a mechanism to support existing and new businesses located in both areas.

How has adopting form-based code worked elsewhere?

Form-based code remains a relatively new concept and, where it's been implemented, has served to direct how revitalization will occur.

One early pioneer was the city of Alexandria, Va., where the city was facing development pressures and the form-based code has guided new mixed-use developments.

The Cecil Group is working with the city of Manchester, Conn. on redeveloping a commercial strip and Bourne and Eastham in southeastern Massachusetts on creating new commercial areas.

Won't the rezoning mean more student rentals?

Form-based code, and the village center rezoning, don't by themselves promote more housing.

Critics, though, say it is likely that new buildings will be filled with students, as they are the only ones who could afford the rents that will be demanded.

Even if this occurs, Jones said the rezoning is unrelated to this problem.

"This zoning proposal, though it does try to encourage diverse tenant types, is a very separate issue from the fact that Amherst is not doing a good job managing student renters," Jones said.

Planning Director Jonathan Tucker points to ways the town is trying to control student rentals, including a new housing enforcement code officer and work on a housing market analysis that will identify how the town can build the types of housing residents want to stabilize the tax base.

How many units could be built?

No one has precise estimates on how many new units could be constructed. At maximum density, some have argued there could be 250 units.

What controls does the town have over new development?

If apartments are proposed by a developer, they would have to go through a special permit process before the Zoning Board of Appeals.

If townhouse-style units are planned by a developer, the project would need site plan review by the Planning Board.

What if the rezoning is unsuccessful?

The land in North Amherst is already zoned commercial, so much of Cowls Road could still see business development take place.

The town could take other steps to improve the village center, such as finding a new use for the North Amherst Congregational Church, reconfiguring the dangerous intersection and installing sidewalks.

At Atkins corner, the roadwork is expected to be complete in the next couple of years, at which time development could be expected to occur.

Material for this article comes from public meetings and interviews with Jonathan O'Keeffe, chairman of the Zoning Subcommittee, Planning Director Jonathan Tucker and several opponents and proponents of the proposed changes.


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<![CDATA[Storm Updates and Reports]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Storm-Updates-and-Reports/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

(From the Chamber's Constant Contact enewsletter):

The Chamber had power by Tuesday, Nov. 1, but we were without phone and internet until Nov. 3.  Tony posted as much information as he could on the Chamber Facebook page and we hope those of you with cell phones were able to access it.

Joan, Tammy, and Tony have been visiting our businesses since Monday to find out how each of you has coped with this unprecedented disaster.  These visits have been invaluable to us as we provide information to local and state agencies and service providers.  Most of all, we have been touched and inspired by your courage and can-do attitude.  Even though many of you were without power at home, you opened your businesses. 

Amherst Farmers Supply, along with several others in the area, were open without power or heat on Monday.  College Street businesses in East Amherst on the north side of the street had power right along but many did not have their internet services and could not accept credit and debit cards.  On the south side of the street, there was no power and only Amherst Pharmacy was open and operating by flashlight.

Downtown Amherst powered up slowly over Monday and Tuesday.  The east side of North Pleasant St. had power several days before the west side did.  Throughout town, there were many examples of one business having power, while their next door neighbor did not.  Of course, most food related businesses had to toss their refrigerated and frozen items and collectively the losses will be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In North Amherst, Cowls had free coffee (a very scarce commodity on Sunday!).  The Harp Irish Pub was fortunate to lose only one day but several others, like the House of Teryaki and Captain Video were out for three days.

On University Drive, most businesses had power by Monday morning and were able to function as usual.

In Hadley, there was no power until Monday when virtually all of Route 9 had power.  Some stores were dimly lit but open.

South Amherst got power back in the commercial sector on Tuesday, but Atkins Farms Country Market had to wait until Wednesday.  They estimate their losses in the tens of thousands.

WMECO lists town and commercial centers as their highest priority after public safety and we thank them for their hard work during what is probably the single worst and most widespread natural disaster ever to hit our area.  We are in direct communication with them and they are members of the Chamber.

We have spoken directly to Patrick Hebda at Comcast (also a Chamber member) to convey the serious problems that no access to phones or internet have caused.  He said that Amherst may have been harder hit than some others.  You are encouraged to contact him directly at patrick_hebda@cable.comcast.com to give him the specifics of your own situation.

In order for the Chamber to speak forcefully and specifically on your behalf and to report the financial losses our area businesses have incurred, we ask you to email us with specifics about the dollar value of lost product and business.  While we know how difficult it was for local government to keep us updated due to their own power outages, we would also like to be able to convey your concerns to Amherst Town Manger John Musante and Hadley Town Administrator David Nixon.  Contact Tony directly at tony@amherstarea.com or give us a call at 413-253-0700.

During this emergency, the Chamber has made it our priority to talk with as many of you as possible by visiting your offices and stores.  We would also like to hear from our many members with home and small offices.  We know you have suffered from lack of power and internet access.  We are working for all of you as hard as we can.  The more you can tell us, the better we can serve you and improve our own systems.

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<![CDATA[North Amherst and Form Based Zoning]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/North-Amherst-and-Form-Based-Zoning/
   By Tony Maroulis              (1) Comments

There has been much going on over the past few weeks, much of it quite good in the push for progress throughout town. The Chamber's position has been consistent over the past few years in its support for the implementation of the Town's comprehensive planning document, approved by the town's planning board in February 2010. As part of that effort, the Chamber helped spearhead the Amherst Future committee, which was created with an eye toward bringing together a broad coalition of businesspeople and residents to argue for the preservation of open space and appropriate development in the downtown and village centers. In other words, we're bringing people together to help pressure the town to actually implement the master plan.

Last Thursday, consistent with that message, my most recent Amherst Bulletin The Business of Amherst column entitled N. Amherst plan fits town's vision was published. Here's an except of the piece below:

In over a decade and a half of discussion, there has been substantial community input regarding the town's Master Plan. The final document affirms Amherst's values of protecting open space and developing the downtown and village centers. We've done a great job of protecting our open space, but implementation of the plan in the village centers has been much harder.

Those who have supported a zoning change to North Amherst Village Center (NAVC) do want a better town. We are looking for solutions. We believe that planning, and the proposed form-based zoning, is a solution that sets us on a path to ameliorate problems while adding additional services, density and sustainability to the village centers.

While there is concern about the merits of form based zoning as opposed to current euclidean zoning, we're supporting the consideration of form based zoning at this fall's town meeting precisely because it helps get closer to implementation of the town's vision.

We urge our Chamber members to make your voices heard and support this zoning change for North Amherst Village Center. 

 

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<![CDATA[The Chamber's Annual Dinner and A+ Awards]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/The-Chambers-Annual-Dinner-and-A-Awards/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

Tonight's the night.

Tonight is the night when nearly 300 people in the Amherst area business community come out in their business finest and celebrate some of the best and brightest people and organizations in our community.

Tonight is the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce Annual A+ Awards Dinner.

Formerly the Millicent H. Kauffman Distinguished Service Awards and the Janet & Winthrop Dakin Community Service Citations, the awards were renamed in 2010 to extend the the Chamber's A+ branding initiative and to reflect the larger community - Amherst, Hadley, Pelham, Shutesbury, Leverett, Sunderland, and Belchertown - which it serves.

Each year, the program has a different theme. This year, in an area that is renowned for its terrific art, we are honoring our own "Works of Art," people and organizations that help make The Amherst Area A Perfect Place.

Consider the award winners:

Paul Kozub, founder of V-One Vodka, the winner of this year's A+ Young Entreprenuer Award, has made a world class product, inspired by his grandfather - a prohibition bootlegger - and his father - a successful area businessman. His product uses locally grown spelt wheat to produce one of the world's finest spirits. Dr. James Hunt, Businessman Who Gives Back, has long supported both UMass and Amherst Pelham Regional High School athletics. The Amherst Survival Center, which, in a small, overcrowded basement in an old North Amherst school building serves hundreds of families and individuals in need each week. We're also honoring Chancellor Robert Holub of UMass, our Change Agent, whose leadership has helped create the best town/gown relationship ever. And, Amherst Media, are deserving winners of the Legacy Award for their 35 years of service to the Amherst community. In a town where only the H is silent, they ensure the H is heard.

This event is a celebration of the excellence of our winners. But it is also a celebration of each and every Chamber member and the business community. It is our chance to be proud of the work we do to make our community a perfect place . . . to live, work, learn, and play.

 

 

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<![CDATA[Keeping up.]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/Keeping-up/
   By Tony Maroulis              (0) Comments

As I was researching a tourism op-ed that I need to write and looking online at the Amherst Bulletin, I passed through the Chamber's other blog Cultural Mass and realizing how hard it is to keep up with these things. As a writer, I like words, and my blog posts are usually word heavy. And so I overthink things and I don't get to writing. Blah, blah, blah.

But I am obligated now that I've kicked this off, to keep up with some news.

The Amherst area has been pretty exciting over the past few weeks and the fall is sure to continue to be busy. Rather than give you too much from me, I'll pass along some links to articles for you to check out:

Amherst was again named the best college town in America;

We have a slew of incredible restaurants coming into Amherst in the fall (and some are already open!);

There's been some positive movement with the proposed Business Improvement District, which downtown business owners hope will be a positive boost to the local economy;

Thanks to the support of Sen. Stan Rosenberg, the Amherst Area Chamber and Greater Northampton Chamber have led the new Hamsphire Regional Tourism Council, which has recently received this bit of good news from the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism (whew! that was a long sentence made longer by these organizational names!);

and, Chamber board member Niels la Cour had an op-ed in the most recent Amherst Bulletin.

Enjoy reading! I'll be back with a few updates next week about the Chamber's annual awards dinner and some profiles of our winners.

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<![CDATA[In with the New . . .]]> http://www.amherstarea.com/Blog/The-A-Blog-News-about-your-Chamber-and-Community/In-with-the-New---/
   By Tony Maroulis              (3) Comments

Welcome to the Amherst Area Chamber's new blog, and our new website!

It's finally here! When we launched the Chamber's A+ campaign in early 2010, we envisioned a much shorter rollout period. By now, if you're a member of the Chamber you're quite familiar with our cheery A+ logo, designed by Doreen St. John of Persona. With Doreen's help we've spiffied up all of our published materials since 2010, including 2 Membership directories, a Visitor's Guide, and our Relocation Guide. Just this month, our banner program was launched in downtown Amherst, proclaiming the Amherst Area: A Perfect Place . . . to live, work, and learn.

We're proud our new site is finally live, and we look forward to its new functionality as a way to help our members do business better. And the website is better integrated with our office software, which will allow us to serve our members better. But there is also additional functionality for members that will make your listings pop off the page. Our SEO services will be better enhanced as well, drawing more eyes to your website, and more customers through your door.

For visitors to the area, our site will be easily navigable so that you might be able to find A Perfect Place... to eat, shop, and do business. 

Don't be afraid to give us feedback. You can respond here to our new blog, where you'll get all kinds of news, views, and information. Or contact me, Tony Maroulis, the Chamber's director at tony@amherstarea.com. 

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