Author Archives: ktowle

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APPLY NOW: Agricultural Energy Grant Program


Solar Panel

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Agricultural Energy Grant Program (Ag Energy) is a competitive grant program that funds agricultural energy projects in an effort to improve energy efficiency and the adoption of alternative energy by Massachusetts farms.  The goal of the program is that farms can become more sustainable and the Commonwealth can maximize the environmental and economic benefits from these technologies.

The Ag-Energy Grant Program has a partnership arrangement with the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) allowing the formation of a new “Special Projects” grant issued for the first time in FY2017.

The Ag-Energy Program now has two separate grant programs: our Ag-Energy Traditional Grant, now in its 10th year, funding a wide variety of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects:   and Ag-Energy “Special Projects”, now in its 2nd year, for specific project categories for agricultural energy projects that would typically require higher capital cost but potentially yield greater savings and/or positive agricultural impacts.

For FY 2018, reimbursement grants of up to $30,000 will be awarded on a competitive basis for the Ag-Energy Traditional Grant Program, while the Ag-Energy Special Projects program will award reimbursement grants on a competitive basis for the six specific categories listed this year.

By implementing these projects under our programs, agricultural operation can help demonstrate new ideas while contributing to the goals of: the MA Food Systems Plan; MA Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Implementation; and the MA Global Warming Solutions Act; and to advance technologies that can be replicated at other agricultural operations in Massachusetts.

For the Traditional Grant Program, all farm related energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that meet the program requirements will be considered, although priority will be given to proposals that focus on the technologies listed in the application.  Examples of priority projects for energy efficiency include; plate coolers, heat recovery, variable speed vacuum pumps, thermal blankets, reverse osmosis, and high efficiency refrigeration. Examples of priority projects for renewable energy include; geothermal, photovoltaics, wind, and solar thermal.

For the “Special Projects” Program, funds are for specific, higher capital cost, energy saving and energy replacement technology implementation opportunities that improve energy efficiency and facilitate alternative clean energy needs. The FY2018 Ag-Energy Special Projects grant program will fund projects up to the maximum amount listed in their categories in the following table:

Energy Efficiency Projects Maximum Funding
Heat Recovery for Anaerobic Digester $50,000
New High Efficiency Single or Multi-Temperature Walk-in Coolers $25,000
Renewable Energy Projects Maximum Funding
Co-Location aka Dual Use of Land Solar Photovoltaic $100,000
Combine Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Projects Maximum Funding
Zero Net Energy Greenhouse Projects $75,000
Super Efficient Zero Net Energy New Farm Building Construction $75,000
Commercial Scale, High Efficiency, and Renewable Energy Urban Ag Greenhouses $75,000


Eligibility and Applying

The operation must be an agricultural operation as defined by M.G.L. c.128, Sec. 1A. The farming operation must have received an energy audit/energy assessment, or will demonstrate the initiation or commitment for such. The operation must be a legally recognized entity within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and must have the ability to enter a legally binding agreement with the Commonwealth. See specific eligibility requirements within the application.

The application period is now open.  If interested in applying, please submit the application with all supporting materials by the deadline of Wednesday, June 7th, 2017.  All awarded projects will need to be completed by June 30, 2018.

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SBA Announces National Small Business Week Webinars

National Small Business Week Banner

SBA is gearing up for National Small Business Week April 30-May 6, 2017. We’re pleased to announce this year’s webinars on a variety of business topics.

The U.S. Economic Outlook and Its Impact on Small Businesses
Presented by Visa
May 2, 2017 | 2:00-3:00 pm ET
Register here

5 Fabulous Habits of Local Business Champions
Presented by YP
May 3, 2017 | 2:00-3:00 pm ET
Register here

How to Write Your Email Content in 15 Minutes or Less
Presented by Constant Contact
May 4, 2017 | 3:30-4:30 pm ET
Register here

Find the Hidden Money in America
Presented by Chase
May 4, 2017 | 5:00-6:00 pm ET
Register here


Finding new customers is a top priority for small business owners, but is often costly and time consuming. Get some tips on finding new customers during this webinar produced by SCORE, a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration. We’ll cover how to attract more web traffic and increase online sales, cost-effectively reach existing customers and use free online listings to get found locally.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT

Have you always wanted to start your own business?
Do you have a lot of business ideas but don’t know which one to pursue?
Don’t worry because you’re not alone.  According to Gallup, Inc, 25% of American adults have dreamed of starting their own business but have not yet taken the plunge.
In this article, you’re going to learn how to identify the right startup business idea in four steps so you can act on it and launch your business.
Imagine owning stock in a company where the price appreciates greatly, you sell it, and pay no tax on your profit. That’s what can happen with qualified small business stock (QSBS). Also referred to as Section 1202 stock because that’s the section in the Tax Code that governs it, QSBS can be a significant planning tool for the right company, such as a tech startup.


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OPINION: Lies and Rural Stats

By Lee Harrison and Lisa Moscynski, Co-Chairs, Rural Issues Committee of the Massachusetts Democratic Party

If Mark Twain were alive today, he would have been amused by Evan Horowitz’s article, “City and Country Folk: We’re Mostly the Same in Massachusetts” because proves his maxim that “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”  And while many of us west of Rte. 495 shake our heads and chuckle in disbelief at Mr. Horowitz’s findings, articles like this can do real harm to real rural Massachusetts.

We don’t know how Mr. Horowitz defines “rural,” but in the vast majority of small towns west of Rte. 495, people definitely do not earn “approximately the same incomes” as people in Newton or Brookline.  Of course, Mr. Horowitz uses averages, which is always a red flag, for a man can easily drown in a stream with an average depth of one foot.  Besides, median values, i.e., half above and half below, are much better tools for comparison.

According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, the annual median household income in Berkshire County was under $50,000 – the lowest in the state – with Hampden County next lowest with just over $50,000.  Franklin and Bristol counties were under $60,000, as was Suffolk County, which includes many wealthy and poor families.  At the other end of the income spectrum are Norfolk ($88,262) and Middlesex ($85118) counties, which shows how proximity to Boston skews the numbers.  Worcester County ($65,313) is below Essex ($69,068), which is roughly the middle of the pack.

Unemployment rates show the same kind of discrepancies between Boston-centric and real rural Massachusetts.  In February, while the unemployment rate for all of Massachusetts was 4.2%, in Berkshire County the rate was 5.3%, in Hampden 5.6%.  Nantucket, Dukes, and Barnstable counties were even higher, but seasonal employment in those regions is certainly a factor.  By contrast in Suffolk, Norfolk, and Middlesex counties – Boston and its suburban ring – the rate was 3.5% or lower.  This is a critical difference, a story that averages don’t tell, and Mr. Horowitz should know that.

And despite what Mr. Horowitz would like us to believe, voting our voting patterns differ markedly, too.  As analyst Brent Benson notes:  “While western Massachusetts, the Boston Metropolitan Area and other urban areas, the tip of Cape Cod, and the Islands show strong Democratic tendencies in statewide elections, Central Massachusetts, parts of the North Shore, and Southern Massachusetts – from Tolland in the west to Dennis in the east – are much more Republican.”

In fact, WBUR reported on April 12, that, “In central Massachusetts, you can travel from New Hampshire to Connecticut or Rhode Island entirely through towns that voted for President Trump.”  The radio station also noted that, “As many as 90% of voters in the central Massachusetts towns where Donald Trump received more votes for president than Hillary Clinton still view the president ‘very positively’ and believe he will, eventually, deliver on his campaign promises.”

So, yes, contrary to what Mr. Horowitz has written, Massachusetts voters are indeed divided.  And unless our leaders see past superficial articles like this and reach out to improve education, transportation, and the economies of our real rural areas, the gap will only increase.

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April is National Financial Capability Month

The Small Business Administration is excited to observe National Financial Capability Month.  The month of April is dedicated to promoting the resources that help Americans make informed financial decisions.  This is a great time for small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs to brush up on their financial literacy skills.
Read more here

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Want to keep WWLP Channel 22 Springfield on your local television line-up?

All of the Berkshire Representatives have been working on the unfortunate decision that Charter/Spectrum cable television made to remove Channel 22. We have joined with our federal partners, Senators Warren and Markey and Congressman Neal, in efforts to keep 22 in our line-up. It happened because it is quite often that our region is lumped in with the Albany, New York media market. They want us to be viewing television commercials from this media market and not that of the Hartford/Springfield media market. As you know,  this is not the first battle fought against losing cable programing that we want to keep.

Our region keeps Boston Channels 4 and 5 because we fought back and demanded  to have them remain in our viewing line-up. Our region’s cable subscribers need to take action again.  By calling or emailing  Charter/Spectrum, our Senators and Representative in Washington, and the FCC, we may be able to win this battle to keep Channel 22. This requires action from citizens like you.  If they do not hear from you, Spectrum will do whatever it wants.
I talked about this on my monthly WNAW radio program with Mike Garland on March 23rd. Below is all the contact information to take action. Please do share this information with anyone in our viewing area that would like to have their view registered with these offices.
Call:   1-855.225.7898  Let them know you are a former Time Warner customer and that you want to keep WWLP channel 22 Springfield, MA on your basic line-up.  Be firm if they give you any ‘run-around’ and ask if there is another number to call to have your request/complaint registered.
Email:   At this website at the ‘helpful links’  look for the ‘contact us’ column and select CHANNEL FEEDBACK or try this web address:

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Cariddi announces $1.8 Million in Chapter 90 funding for First Berkshire District


NORTH ADAMS – State Representative Gailanne Cariddi (D-North Adams) joined her colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass legislation that authorizes $200 million for Chapter 90 funding to help municipalities complete road, bridge and infrastructure improvement projects.

The bill also appropriates $70 million to replace the Registry of Motor Vehicle’s information technology infrastructure.

“Chapter 90 funds are essential to providing stability and spurring economic growth in Massachusetts,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said. “That growth starts on the local level. I am pleased we were able to take action on this bill before April to support safety and efficiency in our municipalities.”

“The House of Representatives voted to support $200 million of Chapter 90 funding for our cities and towns,” said Representative Brian S. Dempsey (D-Haverhill), Chair of the Joint Committee on Ways & Means.  “Today’s vote will ensure that local transportation projects will continue to move forward as the busy construction season gets under way.  These funds are a vital source of local aid and demonstrate the House’s ongoing commitment to deliver needed resources to our partners at the municipal level.”

“This funding is instrumental to cities and towns seeking to make repairs and updates to their infrastructure,” said Representative William Straus (D–Mattapoisett), Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation. “The winter weather is especially tough on roads, and The Legislature’s $200M appropriation will allow municipalities added funds this construction season for repairs that are most needed.”

This legislation complements a 2016 transportation law focused on highways, small bridges and a municipal grant program. That bill authorized $750 million for both federal-aid interstate and non-interstate highway projects, and $50 million for a new program to repair small bridges.

Apportionment for the First Berkshire District:

Adams $ 287,389.58
Cheshire $ 200,332.53
Clarksburg $ 75,655.84
Florida $ 163,372.28
Hancock $ 68,528.17
Lanesborough $ 249,606.47
New Ashford $ 57,030.02
North Adams $ 436,242.37
Williamstown $ 298,449.09



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Sign-up Now: Civic Engagement Workshops at BCC

We are a diverse, non-partisan, Berkshires-based coalition united in support of freedom of speech & religion, freedom from fear & want, and against bigotry & prejudice.

ACT NOW! Workshop schedule just posted! Click here to review schedule and sign up for the free workshops you’d like to take.

Saturday, April 1 9:00am-4:15pm
Berkshire Community College
1350 West Street, Pittsfield, Mass.
We’re excited to announce that our Congressman Richard Neal will be joining us on April 1st to kick off the day of FREE workshops at 9:30am.

Now ​that ​the workshop schedule is finalized, ​​we encourage you to register for ​specific workshops you’d like to take NOW before they fill up!  Space is limited so don’t delay. Please click here to go to the Eventbrite registration form. (You’ll also have the opportunity to pre-order a lunch!)

Big thanks to our partner, Berkshire Community College, for hosting!

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Fact or Fabrication in Today’s News

The Williamstown and North Adams public libraries will sponsor a public forum titled “Fact or Fabrication in Today’s News,” on Monday, March 27 at 7 p.m. at the Williamstown Youth Center,
66 School Street in Williamstown.

Intended as an educational rather than partisan conversation, it will feature a panel of journalists, educators and a library advocate taking questions on how news is presented and consumed in modern culture and how the process affects our ability to be informed citizens and voters.
Panelists will touch on the state of media literacy, ways to improve it and the role schools and libraries can play in meeting that challenge. Audience participation is encouraged.

State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, (D-North Adams) will moderate.
Journalists on the panel include Tammy Daniels, managing editor of iBerkshires; Carrie Saldo, a Berkshire Eagle news reporter with a background in radio and television; Martin Langeveld, former publisher of The Eagle and The Transcript, who currently writes about the media business in his blog “News After Newspapers.”

Educators are Jennifer Browdy, associate professor of comparative literature at Simon’s Rock of Bard College, who is teaching a course on “Media Production and Consumption in the Age of Fake News and Alternative Facts”; Shawn McIntosh, a journalist who teaches English and Communications at Mass. College of Liberal Arts and is a primary adviser to The Beacon student newspaper; and Peter Niemeyer, history teacher at Mt. Greylock Regional High School and adviser to the Greylock Echo student newspaper.
Librarian Krista McLeod, director of the Nevins Memorial Library in Methuen and a member of the Massachusetts Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee, will speak to the role of libraries.

The session will be videotaped by WilliNet for later viewing on Channel 17 and online at

For more information contact:
Mindy Hackner
Library Director
North Adams Public Library
74 Church Street
North Adams, MA 01247
413-662-3133 ext. 10

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Massachusetts #1 in Innovation…Again!




On March 1st, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative launched the 20th Anniversary edition of the Index of Massachusetts Innovation Economy.  Last week, we joined innovation leaders at the Massachusetts State House, where our Executive Director Tim Connelly highlighted the key findings from the Index and noted how MassTech’s programs are helping drive critical areas for the innovation economy, including support for R&D infrastructure and talent development. 
The past twenty years of tracking these key economic indicators in the Index demonstrates that the Commonwealth’s enduring economic strength stems from our talented workforce and capacity for development of new innovations. The Index finds that despite the many challenges our economy has faced over the two decades, Massachusetts remains a global hub for new research and development in a wide range of industries. 
Below are some of the key findings from the Index and a link to download the full report.

2016 Index Highlights
Venture capital grew by 25% in 2015

Experienced steady 2.3% job growth

2nd highest overall level of R&D funding in the country in 2014

2nd in the LTS for Small Business Innovation and Research/Technology Transfer award dollars
2,698 STEM degrees per million residents

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National Entrepreneurship Week

SBA Region One Review

Brought to you by the U.S. Small Business Administration

It’s National Entrepreneurship Week….

As part of National Entrepreneurship Week (February 20-24), SBA will be sharing tips and tricks geared towards young entrepreneurs. If you’re thinking about starting or growing a business, check out the following resources:

National Entrepreneurship Week Build a Business Plan

Business plans are essential in helping entrepreneurs prepare, manage and direct their businesses, however, creating a plan can be intimidating and time consuming. Use SBA’s Business Plan Tool to help you get started.

National Entrepreneurship Week Mentorship

Entrepreneurs and startups are more likely to succeed with the help of a mentor. That may not come as a surprise – a mentor brings with him or her a wealth of knowledge, experience and insight that you won’t find anywhere else. Find a mentor through SBA’s network of resource partners.

National Entrepreneurship Week Starting a Business Online Course

SBA’s online course geared towards young entrepreneurs includes the basics of creating and financing a successful business. You will learn how to evaluate your ideas, choose the best financing options and legally register your business. Launch the course today.

National Entrepreneurship Week Crowdfunding Online Course

Increasingly, crowdfunding is becoming a popular way for people to get startup financing for their businesses. It works through a collective cooperation of people who network and pool their money and resources together, usually online, to support efforts initiated by others. Launch SBA’s course for an overview of crowdfunding.

6 Ways to Use Entrepreneurship Week to Grow Your Business

National Entrepreneurship Week (link is external) takes place this year from February 20-24. Microsoft is the major sponsor and organizer of the weeklong celebration of entrepreneurship. But other community supporters like Wix, Yelp, Square and LinkedIn are also helping to make the event happen.

So what exactly is National Entrepreneurship Week? It’s a weeklong celebration that offers a series of local events along with information and resources all aimed at helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

Because there are so many different events and opportunities throughout the week, there are many different ways you can use National Entrepreneurship Week to benefit your small business. Here are some tips for getting the most benefit for your small business.

  1. Find organizations that are providing information for entrepreneurship week, and check out their information
  2. Find companies observing entrepreneurship week with special offers for products and services
  3. Attend a workshop during entrepreneurship week in your local area
  4. Use it as a hook in your own business to make an offer
  5. Share with your team, especially management, resources you discover through entrepreneurship week events
  6. Use the hashtag for this week #wininbiz to develop your own special promotion

Read the complete SBA Blog here.

Region One Staffing Changes

Image of Acting RA Bob Nelson

Bob Nelson, District Director of the Massachusetts District Office has been named Acting Regional Administrator for New England. He is responsible for oversight of SBA’s programs and services in the states of Connecticut, Maine Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Image of Maine DD Amy Bassett

Congratulations to Amy Bassett who was recently named as District Director for the Maine District Office. Ms. Bassett has worked for the SBA for 26 years in the New Hampshire District Office and most recently served as the deputy district director.

Ms. Bassett, a native of New Hampshire, began her career with the New Hampshire District Office of the SBA in 1990 and held various positions during that time including deputy district director and lender relations specialist.  She succeeds Marilyn Geroux who retired on January 3rd after more than 47 years of dedicated service all with the Maine district office.

Rep. Cariddi on Facebook