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Excelsior Printing Acquires Berkshire Information Systems

The Excelsior Integrated management team Shawn Ouillette, left, Julianne Fruscio, Brendan Burns and David Crane.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Excelsior Printing Co. has acquired the assets of Berkshire Information Systems of Lenox Dale to form Excelsior Integrated LLC.

"For several years now, Excelsior Printing has worked with Berkshire Information Systems on various projects that mutually benefited our customers. We have grown to admire the capabilities of BIS and, especially, its people," said Excelsior Chairman David Crane. "When the opportunity arose to acquire the assets of the company and work more closely with its customers, we felt we had to act quickly. It is very exciting to establish a new company that complements our existing business and keeps important jobs in Berkshire County."

Berkshire Information Systems, a provider of fulfillment, inventory management and electronic commerce services, was founded by Andrew Chmura in 1973 in Pittsfield as Berkshire Computer Processing Center. Mr. Chmura died last June at age 69.

The new Excelsior Integrated is an independent company and continues to maintain its current customer relationships with numerous corporations, media companies and tourism offices. It plans to continue operating from BIS's facilities in Lenox Dale and from its offices in North Adams. BIS employees, about a 10, will continue in their positions.

"Our customers will now benefit from a tight integration with the capabilities or our new sister company, Excelsior Printing," said Shawn Ouillette, executive vice president of Excelsior Integrated and former BIS executive. "In the past when one of our tourism customers asked us to help them create a brochure or other marketing materials we would make suggestions of companies to work with, but ultimately had no real influence in the process. Now, with Excelsior Printing we can create integrated product offerings that allow for great value and outstanding service."

The joint capabilities of the two companies create a powerful combination from a customer's point of view, said Brendan Burns, CEO of Excelsior Printing. The newly formed company will provide customers with a streamlined solution for their marketing and business needs.

"Over the last several decades the printing industry has experienced a lot of pricing pressure due primarily to the proliferation of technology," he said. "Ultimately, this has benefited customers.  What has been more difficult for customers is that they face their own competitive pressures and often need to manage three or more vendor relationships to support their marketing and business development needs."

Excelsior Integrated management will consist of Burns as chief executive officer and also as CEO of Excelsior Printing; Crane as chairman; and Ouillette as executive vice president. Julianne Fruscio is business development and marketing coordinator.

The acquisition is the latest since 116-year-old Excelsior Printing was purchased from Crane & Co. in 2005 by David Crane. It now provides printing, digital communications, mail and distribution programs. Specialty business divisions include SeedPrint, packaging for the seed industry, and Oatmeal Studios, greeting card publishing. For more information: www.excelsiorprinting.com.
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Berkshire Chamber Names 2011 Quinn Award Winner

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Chamber of Commerce has named Michael MacDonald as this year's 2011 Esther Quinn Memorial Award Winner.

The award was established in 1999 to honor the memory of Esther Quinn, former Chamber volunteer and advocate for volunteer efforts.

Candidates are judged on the basis of volunteer efforts rather than any measure of success in the field in which they normally are employed or the accomplishments or successes by an individual’s membership in one organization. The award is given to a person who lives or works in Berkshire County and shows enthusiasm, empathy and effort in making the Berkshires a better place to live and work.

MacDonald, a local attorney, was recognized for his commitment to community service, with a focus on reconciling the wants and needs of disparate groups and seeking mutually beneficial solutions instead of individual achievement.

"Michael has played a significant role in the revitalization of downtown Pittsfield through his good work with the Colonial Theatre, Beacon Cinema and Central Block building," said Mick Callahan, chairman of the Esther Quinn Award Committee. "I look forward to presenting this prestigious award to such a deserving person."

MacDonald has devoted his energy and resources to a variety of causes in Berkshire County and has stepped up on many occasions to lend his time and talent to local civic organizations. He has volunteered with Colonial, the chamber, the Berkshire Theatre Group, Downtown Pittsfield Inc., Berkshire County Lacrosse Club and Windsor Planning Board.

He served in varying capacities for each of these local organizations and did so with unparalleled dedication, never wavering in his commitment to see each project through to completion, no matter how complex, according to committee members.

"Michael leads by example with integrity and humor and is the first to volunteer for the most challenging tasks," said Perri Petricca, of Petricca Industries, who nominated MacDonald. "His dedication and work ethic raises the bar for all those who work with him, and his positive attitude and belief that the goal can be achieved inspires those around him."

Now in its 12th year, the Esther Quinn Award has been presented annually since 1999. The very first recipient of this prestigious award was William Wilson, former president and CEO of the Berkshire Visitors Bureau. Past award recipients include: 2000, David Klausmeyer; 2001, Dr. Gary Lamoureaux; 2002, Louann Harvey; 2003, Mick Callahan; 2004, Robert Proskin; 2005, Richard Whitehead; 2006, Ellen Ruberto; 2007, Williams Hines, Sr.; 2008, Jerry Burke; 2009, Conrad Bernier, and last year's winner, June Roy-Martin.

The Berkshire Chamber of Commerce will present the 2011 Esther Quinn Award at its annual meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 7:30, a.m. at the Crowne Plaza in Pittsfield. Tickets are $30. To register, visit www.berkshirechamber.com, call 413-499-4000 Ext. 10, or email choyt@berkshirechamber.com.
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WMECo Costumers Could See Electric Bills Rise

Press release from Western Massachusetts Electric Co.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Customers of Western Massachusetts Electric Co. are expected to see electric delivery rates decline early in 2012, partially offsetting proposed increases in supply rates for customers who choose to purchase energy supply through WMECo.

There are two main portions of electric bills; delivery and supply. If approved by the Department of Public Utilities, the delivery portion of electric bills should decrease about 3 percent because of proposed declines in transition and transmission charges and the new revenue decoupling mechanism. Overall, bills are expected to increase about 5 percent because of increases in the energy supply rates.

Under Massachusetts law, WMECo is required to procure energy supply, known as basic service, for customers who do not purchase service through a competitive supplier. Basic service is bid twice a year for residential and small commercial and industrial (C&I) customers and four times a year for medium and large commercial customers.

"The most recent competitive bidding process for electric supply is showing at least a temporary increase in the price of electricity after a prolonged period of decline in prices," said Peter Clarke, president and chief operating officer of WMECo. "The increase in price is likely a reflection of seasonality and we encourage customers to shop for a competitive supply price."

From Jan. 1 to June 30, residential customers on basic service will see a supply rate of 7.741 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), compared to 6.998 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for the previous six-month period.

Small C&I customers will see a supply rate of 8.264 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), compared to 7.498 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for the previous six-month period. Both residential and small C&I customers' basic service supply rates change twice a year (in January and July) and remain in effect for six months.

WMECo, a Northeast Utilities company (NYSE:NU), serves approximately 210,000 customers in 59 communities throughout Western Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.wmeco.com.
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Williams Chamber Meeting Raising Funds for Irene Victims

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Williamstown Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting will be a fundraising event for the Community Fund for the Spruces and for Higher Ground.

The meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 29, from 5 to 7 at the Orchards. It is open to the public and the cost is $30 per person for members and nonmembers with 100 percent of the proceeds being donated.  

Because of the devastation that happened during Hurricane Irene, and the holiday season upon us, chamber members did not want to forget about the residents of Spruces Mobile Home Park, many of whom will never be able to go back to their homes. Representatives from the Community Fund and Higher Ground will be on board to give an update on what we as a community have been doing along with what we see happening in the coming future.

Higher Ground was established as a nonprofit group on Oct. 21 and is dedicated to providing immediate relief for those affected by Irene, preparing for future disasters, and creating more affordable housing in the area. Higher Ground is providing services and raising money to meet long-term physical, emotional and spiritual needs associated with the disaster, which is perhaps the greatest in Williamstown's history.

The Orchards has graciously donated use of its ballroom and Gala Restaurant chef Chris Bonnivier, with his many contacts, is getting donations from various Berkshire County restaurants for a wide array of food for the evening. There will also be chefs from Mezze, Wild Oats, the Williams Inn, McCann Technical School and Williams College

Contact the chamber at 413-458-9077 or info@williamstownchamber.com to sign up.
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North Adams Staples Closing By Year's End

Staff Reports

Staples is expected to close by year's end.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Staples in the downtown will close at the end of the year.

The closing, rumored since last week, has been confirmed by Staples, according to several media outlets. Calls to Staples corporate headquarters on Friday were not returned to iBerkshires.

The store opened in the newly refurbished Kmart building in 2006, along with Peebles department stores and North Adams [Garden] Cinemas. Since then, Oylmpia Sports, Planet Fitness and, most recently, a Sears Homestore were added.

Mayor Richard Alcombright said Thursday night that he had spoken with several Staples executives on how the office supply store could stay open but was told the bottom line was the reason. "It was losing money," he said, adding he did not believe the chain had announced anything yet.

Staples also has stores in Pittsfield and Bennington, Vt.

The closure will leave a hole in the Steeple City Plaza but Alcombright said owner Neil Ellis of First Hartford Corp. was "fairly confident he can get something in there pretty quick."

Ellis, contacted on Friday, declined to comment on Staples' plans. "I can tell you we have a waiting list for space," he said.

Other vacancies in the plaza, which includes the L-Shaped Mall, have filled fairly quickly. The former Movie Gallery and smaller adjacent space that had hosted several different businesses, including a kids' clothing store, is now occupied by the Dollar Store. The Fashion Bug, a mainstay for a quarter-century, was replaced by Label Shopper.

Only the old Kmart garden center seems difficult to fill.

Alcombright said signage to better highlight the plaza has been a discussion point but would likely not go forward until next year when the Hadley Overpass is completed. He said he had been assured the other tenants in the former Kmart were doing OK, including the movie theaters.

Staples, based in Framingham, reported a profit gain in the third quarter.
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