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Berkshire Hills Acquires Connecticut Bank

Staff Reports
iBerkshires
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc. is acquiring Connecticut Bank & Trust Co. for about $30 million. The financial institutions announced on Tuesday they had signed a merger agreement.

Berkshire Hills is the area's largest local banking concern, with assets of more than $4 billion and more than 60 branches in Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont. Connecticut Bank is valued at $283 million and operates eight offices in the Hartford area.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, 70 percent of the outstanding Connecticut shares will be exchanged for Berkshire shares at a fixed exchange ratio of 0.3810 Berkshire shares for each share of Connecticut. The remaining 30 percent of Connectict shares will be exchanged for cash in the amount of $8.25 per share.

This the latest round of mergers for Berkshire Bank's parent. Berkshire Hills merged with Legacy Banks last year.  (Four of Legacy's branches have been taken over by NBT Bank.)

Berkshire's President and Chief Executive Officer Michael P. Daley said expanding into Connecticut has been a long-term goal.

"We will now have a total of 20 branches serving the Hartford/Springfield area, the second largest economic area in New England," he said. "CBT has built a solid franchise in the greater Hartford area, and this combination will provide more lending capacity and product diversity to this market. Like CBT, Berkshire has a local focus and a strong record of community involvement. Based on our demonstrated success in our other regional markets, we are well positioned to build our presence in Hartford."

Consummation of the agreement is subject to the approval of CBT's shareholders, as well as state and federal regulatory agencies. The merger is expected to be completed early in the second quarter of 2012.

Read the full press release on PRNewsWire.
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Physical Therapists Cut Ribbon On New Adams Business

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff

Lori Garabedian, to the right, teamed up with her former co-workers Shannon Yorke and Judy LeBlanc to open their own practice after North Adams Regional Hospital closed the office they worked.
ADAMS, Mass. — Cash-strapped North Adams Regional Hospital closed its satellite physical therapy office in Adams in January but the employees and patients won't have to go far to keep their appointments. Three employees who used to work in the office at The Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter School have now opened Adams Physical Therapy right down the road at the Berkshire Mill.

After 17 years in the county, physical therapist and new business owner Lori Garabedian wasn't about to leave the place she has lived, worked and is raising her three children because her position was eliminated with the closing. Instead she opened the new practice and recruited her co-workers Shannon Yorke and Judy LeBlanc.

"I interviewed around and decided to stay in the Adams, Cheshire area," Garabedian said on Tuesday when she held a ribbon-cutting ceremony. "People are excited; they're happy that we're staying."

Owning a business is a new experience for Garabedian, who has worked the last 14 years with the hospital, but working with the state Small Business Authority, she was able to secure a business loan for the upstart costs. With that she shopped around and found deals on chairs from a Springfield car dealership that was going out of business, furniture from the Holiday Inn that is remodeling and updated equipment from a Pittsfield physical therapist that is retiring. She worked with business and medical consultants to to acquire the right licenses and finally on July 20 the new business took care of their first customers.

"It all came together at once," Garabedian said. "It's exciting, scary. You're taking a chance but I think it's going to be worth it."

Luckily, the office space needed only minimal upgrades before Garabedian moved in and now that the doors are open, Garabedian expects business to operate smoothly because the workers have already spend years working together and the patients are all nearby.

Keeping the business in town has earned Garabedian support from local officials. Board of Selectmen Chairman Arthur "Skip" Harrington and Christine Hoyt, representing the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, both attended the ribbon-cutting to show support.

"It's great to see businesses sighting here in Adams. It's a great community," Harrington said. "Thank you for choosing Adams."

The office is 2,100 square-feet inside of the historic mill that hosts retail and office space on the bottom floor and 60 apartments in the upper floors. The new business treats individuals of all ages for any type of physical therapy. The office is currently open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays will be for appointments only but Garabedian said those hours may change based on need.
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BJ's Grand Opening Set This Weekend

Staff Reports
iBerkshires
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — BJ's Whole Sale Club's grand opening is this weekend at 495 Hubbard St. The store is the 24th opened in Massachusetts and had its soft opening last week.

The club will be open to the general public during the two-day grand opening; membership is required to continue getting savings. 

The wholesaler has more than 85,000 square feet filled groceries, general merchandise, electronics and appliances, as well as a BJ's gas station. It is expected to add up to 120 new jobs.

The grand opening will include food and beverage samples, balloon artists and face painting for kids and
Current Members and the public at large are invited to sample a variety of food and beverages and visit with balloon artists and face painters.


BJ's Fresh Bakery
Full-Service Delicatessen
Grocery store and stock-up sizes
Rotisserie Chicken
New BJ's Cafe
Optical Department
Verizon Wireless Kiosk
BJ's Gas Station

The club will be open to the general public during the two-day grand opening; membership is required to continue getting savings. 
 
The wholesaler has partnered with the Silvio O. Conte Community School as part of its Adopt-a-School program. The school will receive a donation to enhance educational programs and curriculum objectives and a shopping cart full of school supplies. BJ's will also partner with the Berkshire Community Action Council by making a donation its Fuel Assistance Program, which provides eligible households assistance in paying winter heating bills.

"BJ's is excited to open in Pittsfield, and we look forward to serving this community," said Rob Mickett, the Pittsfield general manager. "Not only will area residents now have an even more convenient location to satisfy all their shopping needs, but we are eager to establish a strong relationship with the community and are honored to partner with the Conte Community School and the Berkshire Community Action Council."

Members can save more than 30 percent off retail prices and BJ's also accepts manufacturers coupons and major credit cards. 

Hours are Monday through Saturday 9  to 9 and Sunday 9  to 7.  For more information about the new Pittsfield location, visit www.bjs.com/Pittsfield.
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Pittsfield Mayoral Candidates Speaking at Chamber Breakfast

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pittsfield's two mayoral candidates will be the joint keynote speakers of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce's final Good News Business Salute breakfast of the year.

Daniel Bianchi and Peter Marchetti will each be afforded an opportunity to address the chamber membership regarding issues they believe are relevant to the business community. Daniel Bosley of the MountainOne Financial Partners board of directors will emcee the event.

The breakfast will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel from 7:45 to 9. The cost to attend is $25 for chamber members and $35 for nonmembers and includes a breakfast buffet. The event is sponsored by MountainOne Financial Partners.

The chamber's Good News Business Salute Breakfasts seek to showcase "good news" in the Berkshires to create a positive environment for business while promoting quality jobs and celebrating the spirit of success. Businesses to be honored with "good news" recognition at the final celebration of 2011 include Berkshire Graphics, Mark Joseph Jewelers and Partnerships in Employment.

The event will also include a special community recognition of the Berkshire Leadership Program, currently soliciting applications for and celebrating 15 years with the class of 2012.

To register, contact 413-499-4000, Ext. 10, jlavigne@berkshirechamber.com or www.berkshirechamber.com.
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State Unemployment Rate, Jobs Down in September

Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development
BOSTON — The state unemployment has dropped from 7.4 to 7.3 percent in September, the lowest rate since January 2009, according to the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

The rate is lower than the national jobless rate of 9.1.

Preliminary September job estimates show a decrease of 2,300 jobs for a total of 3,231,700 jobs in Massachusetts. The September job loss follows a revised 10,500 job loss in August, previously reported as a loss of 8,900 jobs.
 
In September, Information; Professional, Scientific, and Business Services; Education and Health Services; and Manufacturing posted over-the-month job gains.
 
Year-to-date (December 2010 to September 2011), 37,900 jobs have been added in the Bay State with 43,800 private sector jobs added. Over-the-year (September 2010 to September 2011), jobs are up 48,700, for a growth rate of 1.5 percent. Private sector jobs are up 53,800, for a growth rate of 2.0 percent with gains in nine of the 10 sectors.  Over-the-year, the national rate of job growth is 1.1 percent with private sector job growth up 1.7 percent.
 
The largest job gains over the month were in Information (5,200); the biggest losses were in Trade, Transportation, and Utilities (3,500).

Local area unemployment statistics for September 2011 will be released on Tuesday, Oct. 25. The full press release is here.
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