Clinton Savings Bank is much more than a community bank

Clinton Savings Bank is much more than a community bank.  With 6 branch locations (Berlin, Bolton, Boylston, Clinton, Sterling, West Boylston) and a seventh opening next year in Shrewsbury, Clinton Savings has a major impact throughout Central Massachusetts.

Clinton Savings Bank also has a rich history in the business community, opening its door 171 years ago in 1851.  With 104 employees, the Bank takes great pride in its banking team.

“We are fortunate to have employees that believe in our mission and possess the skill set of reliability, problem-solving, willingness to learn and to ask questions and most importantly teamwork,” said Robert J. Paulhus, Jr., President & CEO.  “Our average tenure is nine years with our longest employee being with us for 43 years.”

Paulhus added that Clinton Savings Bank’s work place culture is a collection of attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that make up the regular atmosphere in a work environment.  “We know that a healthy workplace aligns employee behaviors and company policies with the overall goals of the Bank, he said. “After almost two years of disruption and social fragmentation we continue to create an environment that our employees can be happy and engaged in when working.

Since COVID, Paulhus noted the Bank has adapted to a more flexible hybrid work model, created new personal employee experiences – expanded the employee recognition programs and invested in new technology to help every employee feel more connected and inspired.

Recognizing the past two years have been rough for the business community, however Paulhus is very optimistic about the future.  “Clinton Savings Bank is well-positioned for continued growth and success,” he said. “We will continue to enhance the customer experience, improve capabilities, and create opportunities for future growth. Our vision and mission statements keep us aligned to what’s most important — the well-being of our customers and the communities that we serve.”

Paulhus added that working in a diverse mix of towns in North Central Massachusetts helps represent a “community feel and bind which is what community banking is all about — having the best interest of others in mind and forming personal relationships with customers.”

He feels the Bank’s longevity and trust it has built with its customers is what sets Clinton Savings Bank apart from its competition.  “We have shown our commitment to the people we serve by giving back, whether, it’s monetary or our employees volunteering at non-profit organizations or town events,” Paulus said. “We’ve never closed any of our locations and continue to invest in the towns we serve.”

He also echoed a great sense of pride in how Clinton Savings Bank supports the communities it serves. “We think of ourselves as ‘relationship’ bankers as opposed to ‘transactional’ bankers, said Paulhus.  “We are an integral part of downtown and we know what it takes to be a community bank.  Being a part of the local neighborhoods for over 170 years we have that specialized knowledge of our local neighborhoods and our customers.”  A great example of that support is the Bank’s two full-service branches at Tahanto Regional High School and Nashoba Regional High School operated by the students in the banking program and managed by a CSB Relationship Banker.

While Clinton Savings uses multiple marketing channels to promote itself, Paulhus said “Word of mouth is marketing that you cannot beat.” “We are fortunate to have dedicated employees and a corporator body made up of some great local business people that are on the streets talking about the Bank and encouraging folks to try us,” he added.

Like many businesses today, Clinton Savings Bank relies heavily on digital marketing, as well.  “Since the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic there has been a shift from using mostly traditional marketing to using mostly digital marketing.” Paulhus noted. “Tools like our website, email, social media, and web-based advertising, along with text and multimedia messages allow us to send more personalized offers and services to match people in different stages of their lives and needs, in real time with a lower cost per lead and higher conversion rate.”

Paulhus said the Bank’s customers are by far its strongest influence.  “They have a huge influence on the success of the Bank or any business in today’s digital age,” he concluded. “They can share their experience either good or bad within seconds using online tools. Having a customer base that is loyal and engaged will drive revenues; without them, businesses cannot continue to exist.”

North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce supports downtown beautification in Fitchburg through Project Maintain program

Work continues as extension of Chamber’s Community Leadership Institute program

The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce recently collaborated with InTown Fitchburg to continue the work of improving the downtown Fitchburg business district which began shortly prior to the pandemic shutdowns.

In early 2020, Project Maintain, was created under the guidance of eight reputable organizations and businesses in North Central Massachusetts as part of the Chamber’s annual Community Leadership Institute program (CLI). Following the completion of one project at 655 Main Street, the project was paused due to the pandemic until the Chamber began collaborating with InTown Fitchburg to continue the project work this year.

Projects are designed to improve the appearance of vacant business windows in the downtown area to create interest in future business development and community inclusion. The organizations involved in Project Maintain include the Chamber, NewVue Communities, North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation, Rollstone Bank & Trust, Leominster Credit Union, MassHire and the Arc of Opportunity.

“The Project Maintain team was made up of members working for businesses and organizations with a vested interest in attracting new business to downtown Fitchburg, creating a vibrant place for people of the region to live, work and play, and we were fortunate to have support of the project from the Mayor’s Office and Main Street landlords,” said Melissa Kuehl, Vice President, Marketing, Rollstone Bank & Trust. “Although we did not see our vision come to fruition due to the onset of the pandemic, we are thrilled that our fundraising and other efforts are able to assist in the work that InTown Fitchburg is doing.”

With the financial support provided for Project Maintain, the Chamber granted the funds to InTown Fitchburg to continue the work improving Main Street.

“We are very thankful to the North Central Massachusetts Chamber and the Community Leadership Institute for their contribution and active involvement in our efforts to enhance the downtown business district in Fitchburg,” said Joe Ferguson, Executive Director, InTown Fitchburg. “The contribution from the Chamber’s Leadership Institute helped fund the purchase and installation of commercial self-watering planters to help beautify and improve the atmosphere of downtown. You will see additional self-watering planters along the sidewalks of Main Street in the Spring of 2023.”

The Chamber developed the CLI program to inspire a new generation of community leaders to enthusiastically assume important roles in their community while motivating participants from diverse backgrounds to be influential in the region’s future. Previous CLI projects included the creation of a non-profit organization, The Russell Brooks Foundation, to help with holiday gifts for families when a parent or loved one is undergoing cancer treatments. Most recently, the CLI participants led a holiday drive to raise funds and personal care items for economically, socially and educationally disadvantaged youth through My Turn, Inc., a non-profit that helps people develop their skills, goals, and self-confidence through alternative education, post-secondary career planning, career exploration and employment training.

To learn more about the CLI program, please contact Kat Deal, Events & Program Manager, at 978-353-7600, ext. 235, or at

North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation approves financing to Adams Farm and Slaughterhouse

The North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation (NCMDC), the economic development arm of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, recently approved a loan of $150,000 to Adams Farm and Slaughterhouse to assist toward the purchase of equipment and working capital.

Adams Farm and Slaughterhouse, a third-generation meat processor and retail store located at 854 Bearsden Road, Athol, employs 32 full-time and 11 part-time employees. The farm, which began as a dairy farm in 1919 by Hester Adams, was taken over in 1946 by Lewis Adams, who changed the operations from dairy farm to slaughterhouse. Today, the company is owned and operated by Lewis Adams’ wife, Beverly Mundell, her son Richard Adams, and her daughter, Noreen Heath-Paniagua.

“As a third-generation local business, we take great pride in providing our customers with a variety of fresh meats, dairy products and ice cream they’ve come to trust over the years,” said Mundell. “We appreciate the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation for their support of our efforts to enhance our business for more generations to come.”

Adams Farm and Slaughterhouse offers customers beef, pork, chicken, smoked meats, lamb, goat and veal at their retail store, as well as homemade deli products, produce, bread, milk, cheese and ice cream. For more information visit,

As a microloan lender, NCMDC can provide loans to small businesses up to $250,000 for working capital, real estate, equipment, inventory, expansion and working with our banking partners to provide gap financing for the final piece of a project.

For more information about the NCMDC loan programs, please call 978.353.7607 or visit or

Any business looking for answers about how to process payments safely and efficiently can look no further than Commonwealth Consulting Group

Any business looking for answers about how to process payments safely and efficiently can look no further than Commonwealth Consulting Group.  Headquartered in Worcester, MA, Commonwealth prides itself on being “your partner in the payment industry.”

“Commonwealth Consulting Group was founded in 2010 with a single mission,” said Ilene Holman, account manager, “to ensure every client is processing all forms of electronic payments with the most cost-effective and efficient solutions.”

“For too long, the payment processing industry has benefited from customer confusion,” Ms. Holman explained. “We believe in educating our clients, and we always offer interchange pricing. Our statements are transparent and easy to understand; you’ll always know what your costs are and why.”

Most importantly, Ms. Holman said Commonwealth considers itself a partner in the successful operation and growth of its clients’ business. “We offer free AR cost savings analysis, account reconciliation, online reporting and analysis, virtual terminal gateways, development software, and Level II and Level III pricing options,” she said.

“Unlike some merchant service companies, we’re just getting started after the relationship is established – we’re in it for the long haul. All of this, backed by superior customer service from qualified local representatives is what separates Commonwealth from its competitors.”

Ms. Holman added that she loves doing business in North Central Massachusetts.  “This region is a close-knit, diverse and well-connected business community comprised of many small and medium-sized businesses that rely on the merchant services that we provide,” she said. “This part of the state is also rich in tradition, tourist attractions, and entrepreneurial activity.”

Commonwealth is very involved in giving back to the community that has contributed to its success. “We support a number of youth sports organizations,” Holman noted, “we sponsor several community events throughout the year, and our employees serve on the boards of a number of local organizations.”

As businesses recover from the challenges of the COVID Pandemic, Ms. Holman shared some optimism about the future. “The last two plus years have been challenging for the business community,” she added, “but during the pandemic, we found that many of our relationships were made stronger because we responded to our clients’ need for remote and contactless payments, cash discounting options, and ATMs, all things that made it possible for our clients to adapt to the changed environment.”

“Going forward, those strengthened relationships are generating referrals and continued growth for our company,” she said.

Ms. Holman notes that her team of eight employees “have to be good listeners in order to provide solutions for our customers’ business needs.” She added the staff is “customer-focused, self-motivated, and detail-driven.”  All this is done in a workplace culture which she best describes as “relaxed.”

Commonwealth’s website clearly defines the depths of its services and solutions:

  • Credit card and debit processing
  • B2B solutions
  • PCI compliant software solutions
  • Buy Now, Pay Later options
  • eCommerce
  • Point of service (POS) systems
  • Mobile payments
  • ATMs & ATM vaulting services
  • ACH, EFT, and eChecks
  • Terminals, products, and supplies

In addition to its website, Ms. Holman explained that Commonwealth promotes itself through all of the usual channels, including social media, event sponsorships, digital ads on our ATMs, monthly newsletters, and networking opportunities.  “But,” she said, “our best leads come from word of mouth and referrals from satisfied customers.”

In describing Commonwealth’s strongest influences, Ms. Holman said “we’ve always worked to be more customer-focused than our competitors.  So I guess you could say that we have learned what not to do by paying attention to the reasons our customers share for switching to Commonwealth from a competitor.”


State Expecting Elevated Tax Revenues To Hold

Source: State House News Service
Author: Colin A. Young

1.6 Percent Growth Expected, 4.1 Percent When Surtax Included

The Healey administration and legislative budget managers agreed Monday to build their upcoming state budget plans on the assumptions that they will have $40.41 billion in general state tax revenue to spend in the budget year that begins July 1 and an additional $1 billion in revenue from the state’s new high-earner surtax that can be put towards education or transportation.

The fiscal year 2024 consensus revenue agreement announced Monday would represent 1.6 percent growth over the latest estimate for fiscal year 2023 tax revenue, or 4.1 percent growth when adding the $1 billion in projected revenue from the surtax on income greater than $1 million to the equation. The surtax revenue, by law, is supposed to only be spent on education and transportation initiatives.

“The Fiscal Year 2024 consensus revenue forecast lays the groundwork for a fiscally responsible FY24 spending plan that supports core services for residents and makes meaningful and sustainable progress in addressing the varied needs and issues facing the Commonwealth,” Administration and Finance Secretary Matthew Gorzkowicz, who agreed to the growth figure with Ways and Means Committee chairs Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and Sen. Michael Rodrigues, said. “More importantly, the additional surtax revenue will allow for significant new investments in transportation and education that will make the Commonwealth more competitive, affordable, and equitable.”

Gov. Maura Healey is expected to file her first annual budget proposal by March 1. The House and Senate will redraft Healey’s spending blueprint and debate their own versions, likely in April and May. Fiscal year 2024 begins on July 1, but Massachusetts has rarely had its full-year budget in place by that date in recent years.

“I think really important and exciting news on the consensus revenue and what is an atypical year in terms of how these things are put together. So we’re really pleased to be able to announce that today,” Healey said Monday afternoon.

The governor referred back to the consensus revenue accord later in the same press conference Monday when asked about the future of Chapter 62F, the state tax revenue cap law that House lawmakers in particular have said they want to see changed.

“I don’t know what the future looks like,” she said. “I know that right now we’re really pleased to be out with the consensus revenue number. We’ll be having some discussions about upcoming budget and priorities and the like, and a lot of work to sort through in the immediate,” Healey said.

Rodrigues said the revenue accord “provides a strong foundation for the Legislature and the Healey-Driscoll administration to develop a forward looking FY24 budget plan that upholds fiscal responsibility and meets the critical needs of our communities.” Michlewitz said it “will allow the Legislature and the Healey-Driscoll administration to collectively construct a reasonable and appropriate budget for the upcoming fiscal year.”

“By basing the budget on a judicious consensus revenue figure, the Commonwealth will be able to make the necessary investments that our constituents deserve, while at the same time enhancing the state’s fiscal health,” Michlewitz said.

The $40.41 billion revenue estimate that Gorzkowicz, Michlewitz and Rodrigues agreed to Monday, a day ahead of their deadline, is largely in keeping with the testimony they heard from economic and budget experts at a hearing last week.

The Department of Revenue forecasted fiscal year 2024 state tax revenue within a range of $39.838 billion to $41.017 billion, the Mass. Taxpayers Foundation projected that fiscal year 2024 state revenues will come in at $40.06 billion, and the Center for State Policy Analysis at Tufts University estimated that fiscal year 2024 state tax revenue will land at $40.2 billion.

While the official estimate of 1.6 percent growth is well below what Beacon Hill officials have projected in each of the last at least six years, it means that state revenues are expected to stay at their significantly elevated levels.

The consensus revenue growth estimates were for 3.5 percent in fiscal 2022 and 2.7 percent in fiscal 2023, but over those two years state tax revenues actually surged more than 15 percent and more than 20 percent, respectively. The fiscal year 2024 revenue estimate of $40.41 billion is more than $10 billion above the estimate that Michlewitz, Rodrigues and the Baker administration originally agreed to for fiscal year 2022 ($30.12 billion) in January 2021.

The state budget, which totals $52.7 billion for fiscal 2023, is supplemented by substantial federal revenues along with non-tax revenues like fees. The fiscal year 2023 bottom line represented an increase of $5.1 billion or 10.7 percent over the $47.6 billion annual budget passed for fiscal 2022.

Gorzkowicz, Michlewitz and Rodrigues also confirmed Monday the amounts of money that will be transferred to various entities that have over the years secured themselves dedicated budget carve-outs. The MBTA will get $1.463 billion ($138 million more than in the current year), the Massachusetts School Building Authority will get $1.303 billion (an increase of $138 million), and $27 million will flow to the Workforce Training Fund.

There will also be a $4.105 billion transfer to the state pension fund — an increase of $361 million over the fiscal 2023 contribution — which is expected to keep Massachusetts on track to fully fund its pension liability by 2036.

Gorzkowicz also announced Monday that he was upgrading the current year’s revenue estimate by $151 million or about 0.4 percent, from $39.618 billion to $39.768 billion. The three top state budget officials said that $100 million of fiscal year 2023 revenue was earmarked Monday for use to “fully pay down” pension liabilities stemming from a 2015 early retirement incentive program that otherwise would not have been paid off until fiscal year 2027. That decision was announced as one made by “the secretary and chairs.”

Through the first half of fiscal 2023, DOR has collected $17.789 billion, which is $56 million or 0.3 percent less than what was collected to the same period of fiscal 2022, but still $1.087 billion or 6.5 percent more had been expected during that time period.

“However, a significant portion of the above-benchmark performance is due to lower than expected credits claimed by [pass-through entity] members, which we do expect to reverse in the second half of this fiscal year,” Revenue Commissioner Geoffrey Snyder said last week.

Gorzkowicz, Michlewitz and Rodrigues also agreed Monday to a 3.6 percent rate of potential gross state product growth for calendar year 2023. That figure is used to set up a health care cost growth benchmark under the 2012 cost containment law.

Mass. Housing Market Finished Year In Cooling Zone

Source: State House News Service
Author: Colin A. Young

Home Sales Fell Nearly 16 Percent Compared To 2021

After two years of double-digit increases in home sale prices and inventory that couldn’t keep up with demand, signs of a correction in the Massachusetts housing market were apparent in the final 2022 statistics, analysts at The Warren Group said Tuesday.

“The Massachusetts single-family market finally hit that wall we’ve all been anticipating,” Tim Warren, CEO of The Warren Group, said. “For the last few years, housing market activity has been so hot that inventory was unable to keep up — and our numbers reflect that. Add in economic uncertainties and the fact that mortgage rates are nearly double what they were a year ago, and you have the making for a cooling housing market.”

The industry watchers’ latest report paints a picture of the issues that Gov. Maura Healey’s proposed secretary of housing will have to contend with if or when that office is created. Healey declared high housing costs “unacceptable for our people, our businesses and our state’s future” in her inaugural address and said she would establish a new Cabinet secretary specific to housing within her first 100 days in office.

In 2022, there were 52,397 single-family home sales in Massachusetts — a 15.9 percent decrease compared to 2021. And at the same time, the median single-family home price increased 7.8 percent in 2022 to $550,000. Compared to the end of 2020, home sales are down 15.3 percent while the median sale price is up 23 percent.

The 3,838 single-family home sales in Massachusetts in December 2022 represented a decline of 31.7 percent from a year earlier while the median sale price of $510,000 set a new all-time high for the final month of the calendar year. Despite that, The Warren Group said, “year-over-year increases have been shrinking for the past three months.”

Tim Warren noted that home prices are still rising but that the increases are getting slimmer, “and they’re even getting close to none.” He said homes in Massachusetts cost more than buyers are willing to spend, inventory is drying up and rising mortgage rates make a purchase even more costly.

“People who were considering a home purchase have backed off, and instead of offering to purchase above the asking price, they are either on the sidelines or driving a hard bargain as bidding wars have become a thing of the past,” he said on The Warren Group’s monthly podcast. He added, “Talk of inflation and a possible recession this year have made consumers cautious and they have have curbed their enthusiasm for a new home.”

Further eroding buyers’ fervor is the talk of a looming recession and resulting job losses in 2023 as the Federal Reserve Bank appears poised to continue ratcheting up interest rates, Warren said.

“Given this scenario, I think the downward trend will continue throughout 2023 for the Massachusetts real estate market. Fewer listings will mean fewer sales and high mortgage rates will exert downward pressure on prices. Probably not all but some of the months of 2023 will see lower median price then in the same month in 2022,” he said. “In the stock market, prices declined by nearly 20 percent in 2022. We won’t see that deep correction in the local real estate market, but I expect we’ll see some price declines. And those who are confident in their jobs and their finances will find some bargains as the market slows.”

Harvard University professor Kenneth Rogoff put a number on his expectation for housing market declines in coming years, telling Bloomberg Television on Tuesday that he expects about a 10 percent drop over the next few years.

“There’s still a lot of downward adjustment in the housing markets globally, not just in the United States,” he said.

By April 15, the governor has said she will file legislation to create a standalone secretary of housing, splitting it off from the current Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. Healey made housing a major platform of her gubernatorial campaign last year and the issue was among the first policy areas she addressed in her Jan. 5 inaugural speech.

“The cost of housing is out of control for too many because we simply don’t have enough of it,” Healey said. “If we want Massachusetts to be a home for all, we need to build more places to live and we need to make sure those homes are within reach.”

Healey’s bifurcation of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development is likely to happen under the authority of Article 87 of the state Constitution. Under Article 87, executive branch reorganizations require a legislative hearing within 30 days of filing, a committee vote within 10 days of the hearing, and must receive an up-or-down vote from the Legislature, without amendment, within 60 days or the action takes effect. The Legislature allowed a handful of Article 87 reorganizations to take effect without votes under the Baker administration.

After Review, House To Swear In Scarsdale

Source: State House News Service
Author: Chris Lisinski

Panel: Election “Missteps Had No Impact On The Integrity Or The Final Outcome”

A special House committee concluded with bipartisan support that Margaret Scarsdale of Pepperell should be seated as the winner of a narrowly contested recount in the First Middlesex District, rejecting her Republican opponent’s contention that irregularities left the result in doubt.

After convening a hearing Friday to examine the challenge filed by Townsend Republican Andrew Shepherd, the three-member panel on Tuesday evening concluded there was not enough evidence to warrant tossing out the certified election results that gave Scarsdale a seven-vote win. The committee left open its review of a contested recount in another district.

The full House then adopted the committee’s report in part on an unrecorded voice vote at 7:30 p.m., clearing the way for Scarsdale to be inaugurated for the two-year lawmaking term that began Jan. 4.

A spokesperson for House Speaker Ron Mariano told the News Service that Scarsdale will be sworn in Wednesday morning in Gov. Maura Healey’s office alongside Reps.-elect Erika Uyterhoeven and Patricia Haddad, who were absent on Jan. 4, the original inauguration day.

Democrat Rep. Michael Day of Stoneham, Democrat Rep. Daniel Ryan of Charlestown and House Minority Leader Brad Jones all signed the report indicating their support for naming Scarsdale, a Democrat, the winner.

They wrote that Shepherd “failed to provide any corroborating evidence to support his claims that the irregularities that occurred in Pepperell, Groton, Dunstable and Lunenburg caused harm beyond pure speculation.”

“He has not met his burden of proof in this matter,” the lawmakers said.

Shepherd said Tuesday evening that he called Scarsdale to congratulate her and wish her well “as her success will be our district’s success.”

“Our committee is disappointed by the decision of the committee, but we are grateful the committee was willing to listen as we presented significant errors that came about during this election cycle,” he said in a statement. “We hope these issues raised about the process will lead to the strengthening of our voting system. I’m excited to continue my advocacy in our community and work with our new State Representative Margaret Scarsdale.”

In a statement, Scarsdale said she is “deeply grateful to Speaker Mariano for his steady leadership and to the committee members and their staff for their expeditious review and their attention to this critical process.”

“I am eager and ready to get down to business serving the hard-working people of the First Middlesex District,” she said. “I am excited to continue to advocate for our communities as a seated member of the House of Representatives, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to deliver real results for my district this session.”

Although they agreed that the issues Shepherd highlighted do not warrant nullifying the election results, lawmakers said the debate revealed there may be flaws in the state’s voting systems — which now feature widespread mail-in voting and expanded early voting following recent reforms — that need attention.

“The evidence presented to the Special Committee suggests that in one community there may have been instances where incorrect ballots were sent to qualified voters. In another community, it appears possible that fifty test ballots were inadvertently included during the recount with actual ballots cast,” the panel wrote. “In another community, it appears uncast ballots were included in the blanks tally as a simple way of accounting for those uncast ballots. While these missteps had no impact on the integrity or the final outcome of the election, similar missteps in the future, if occurring on a larger scale, could affect future elections.”

“In each of the instances outlined, the ballots in question do not impact the integrity or the outcome of the election in the First Middlesex District,” they added. “These missteps, while benign in the election for State Representative in the First Middlesex District, do highlight the need for continued close review of current regulations, training, policies and practices of elections in the Commonwealth.”

The special committee has not yet reached a decision on how to handle the other contested recount, where Democrat Kristin Kassner of Hamilton emerged with a one-vote win over Republican Rep. Lenny Mirra of Georgetown after trailing by 10 votes in the original certified results.

Mariano announced the night before the inauguration that the House would “temporarily delay” swearing in Kassner and Scarsdale and task a special committee with reviewing the legal challenges Mirra and Shepherd had filed.

The panel hosted all four candidates for a pair of hearings on Friday, where both Republicans argued that “human error” created substantial problems in the recounts and both Democrats defended the outcomes.

Shepherd and his attorney, former state representative and former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan, alleged that local clerks made several missteps such as failing to reject mail-in ballots where envelope signatures did not match registration cards and mailing ballots listing the wrong state representative race to some First Middlesex District voters.

The first-time Republican candidate from Townsend told lawmakers he did not believe “there were any conspiracies nor nefarious intent.”

“I simply believe that there was human error under the smallest of margins that has materially affected the outcome of this race,” he said on Friday.

The north central Massachusetts where Scarsdale won has been without representation in the House for nearly a year following the departure of former Republican Rep. Sheila Harrington, who resigned to take a job in the judicial branch.

Mirra continues to represent the Second Essex District on a holdover basis, and Kassner remains in limbo. The Governor’s Council certified both recounts on Dec. 14, but courts have ruled that the House itself has final jurisdiction over seating new members.

North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation approves financing to MK Dance Center

Funding to support expansion of dance studio in Leominster

The North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation (NCMDC), the economic development arm of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, recently approved a $100,000 loan to MK Dance Center, Inc., located at Gateway Center, 435 Lancaster Street in Leominster.

The loan will be utilized to finance the build out and renovation costs at the dance studio’s new location to offer classes for dancers aged two through adult. The center employs two full-time employees and six part-time dance instructors.

Owners Kelly (Charpentier) Pelkey and Moriah Kelly-Hildreth opened MK Dance Center in 2013 and recently relocated to Gateway Center. The dance center offers Ballet, Tap, Jazz Contemporary, Hip-Hop, Break Dancing and more.

Pelkey and Kelly-Hildreth are childhood friends who met while dancing at a local studio. Pelkey studied ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop and contemporary, and has received national recognition as a soloist and group member. She began assisting with classes as a teenager and went on to lead ballet, top and jazz classes. Pelkey attended Fitchburg State University and graduated with a degree in Human Services. Prior to owning MK Dance Center, she worked as a Licensed Social Worker.  Kelly-Hildreth has been teaching dance for 20 years, focusing on ballet, tap and jazz. After leading the Dance Department at Riverside Theatre Works in Hyde Park, she choreographed for vocal groups and children’s theater, and taught musical theater classes during summers at The Boston Ballet School. A graduate of the Dance Teachers Club of Boston’s Teachers Training School, she completed four years of Dance Masters of America’s Teachers Training School and is currently an Associate of the program.

“We have both loved to dance from an early age, and this funding affords us the opportunity to bring our passion of dance to more youth and the young at heart in our community,” said Pelkey. Added Kelly-Hildreth, “With the support of the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation, we can build out our new space and create the dance studio of our dreams.”

As a microloan lender, NCMDC can provide loans to small businesses up to $250,000 for working capital, real estate, equipment, inventory, expansion and working with our banking partners to provide gap financing for the final piece of a project.

For more information about the NCMDC loan programs, please call 978.353.7607 or visit or

Red Apple Farm provide an authentic, New England, family farm experience year-round

When Al Rose speaks about Red Apple Farm it is easy to see his passion for his business, his family, his apples, his home and his life.  Rose’s enthusiasm is infectious and is easily translated to all aspects of Red Apple Farm’s operation.

Founded in 1912, Rose has carried on the multi-generational farm and converted it into one of North Central Massachusett’s best-known businesses and tourism attractions.  With more than 100 full and part-time employees, Red Apple has expanded from its family farm and farm store in Phillipston to Wachusett Mountain – where it operates the unique Bullock Lodge Cider House and The Core in the Main Base Lodge.  If that wasn’t enough, Rose has taken Red Apple Farm to Boston – where is operates the largest storefront in the popular Boston Public Market.

Rose’s business philosophy is simple.  “We provide an authentic, New England, family farm experience year-round,” he said when asked what separates Red Apple Farm from its competition.  It’s that authentic New England experience that Rose feels is most special about doing business in North Central Massachusetts.

“It reflects who and what we are and closely aligned to our mission,” he said.  “North Central Massachusetts is New England at its core, from the people who live and work here, to the communities and natural and historical landscapes.”

Rose has also perfected the art of collaboration, teaming with businesses like the Gardner Ale House and Wachusett Mountain Ski Area to expand his business.  With Gardner Ale House, he created his Brew Barn and Cidery at the Farm and started brewing his own hard cider.  With Wachusett Mountain, he helped reopen the historical Bullock Lodge where he serves fresh cider donuts and hot cider to hundreds of skiers and snowboarders each winter.

It’s that local collaboration which Rose credits in helping his business and others work through the COVID pandemic the past couple years.

“Intrinsically people value local and keeping it local,” he said. “We are fortunate to be in area that is considered by many folks, whether they live in Central Mass or in Boston, to be there backyard! Those are connections that seemed to strengthen during the pandemic and moments of economic uncertainty.”

Rose says his customers’ “ever-changing needs and wants” are Red Apple Farm’s strongest influence.  He has learned how to adapt along the way, noting that “particularly the intangible needs (like safety and being grounded during Covid)” were so important.

Rose looks at his employees as part of his family.  In describing Red Apple’s workplace culture, he said “we call our employees ‘farm-ily!”  He looks for qualities in his employees that share his same business values.

“We look for employees who focus on adding value, cultivate authenticity, and celebrate community,” he said.  Rose added that Red Apple Farm is “100% in” on supporting the community.  “It’s who we are,” he proudly noted.

One look at Red Apple Farm’s website clearly shows the farm’s great heritage, history and authenticity:

“Red Apple Farm is a fourth-generation family farm,” the website proudly claims. “Red Apple Farm is truly a place to connect the past and today!  Our farmhouse and barn were built in the mid-1700’s. The encompassing stonewalls and stately maple trees represent the icons of days gone by and a labor of love that is still found today in the farm’s breath-taking atmosphere and true sense-of-place.”

“Situated right off scenic Route 2 in the heart of North Central Massachusetts, the orchard boasts views of Wachusett Mountain and sprawling fields outlined by untouched forests. Every year our fruit is grown using Integrated Pest Management with conscious thought to people and the environment. Visit the farm, pick your own fruit, stop in to the Country Store for locally produced specialty foods, and don’t leave without trying our famous cider donuts and homemade fudge.”

Rose combines several factors to successfully promote Red Apple Farm.

“Employee training, making decisions that build and enhance our brand, customary loyalty program and communication, and paid advertisement (i.e. social media, newspaper, radio, etc),” he said.  With all that, Rose notes “word of mouth by a raving customer!” is by far the most successful method of promotion.


Scholarships Available through the North Central Massachusetts Chamber Foundation

The North Central Massachusetts Chamber Foundation is pleased to announce that applications for its 2023 Scholarship program are now being accepted. Each year, the Chamber Foundation distributes approximately 25 scholarships to local high-achieving high school students in North Central Massachusetts.

Students interested in applying for a 2023 scholarship through the North Central Massachusetts Chamber Foundation should contact their high school guidance department to submit an application. Deadline for applications is Wednesday, March 1, 2023. A limited number of scholarship applicants are submitted by each school in the Chamber’s service area each year and then reviewed by a committee of Chamber members.

Since the establishment of its scholarship program, the North Central Massachusetts Chamber Foundation has awarded over a million dollars in scholarships. Many of these awards are made possible through contributions from members of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce. Scholarships endowed through the Chamber Foundation are often named in honor of prominent members of the North Central Massachusetts business community whose philanthropy and commitment to the community have helped shape North Central Massachusetts.

The Chamber’s Foundation is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization focused on assisting in the betterment of the region through charitable activities. Funds raised by the Foundation are utilized primarily for education/workforce development initiatives and charitable activities in North Central Massachusetts, including scholarships to eligible applicants pursuing education and grants to support economic and community development projects.

For more information on the North Central Massachusetts Chamber Foundation’s scholarship program or a list of the named scholarships, please visit or call 978.353.7600 ext. 222.