Kay McMahon, an LPGA Hall of Famer, spoke about how she started her golf instruction business in the Berkshires.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Chamber of Commerce kicked off its Good News Business Salute breakfasts for 2012 on Wednesday with a nod to the region's biggest financial institute and a small-business talk by an LPGA Hall of Famer.
Kay McMahon, a former president of the Ladies Professional Golf Association and named one of the top women golfing instructors by GolfDigest, spoke of how she had come to the Berkshires 10 years ago and didn't plan to leave.
Raised in Minneapolis, her love of golf and entrepreneurship began as a child when her father set up a mini course of three holes in the yard. They charged a penny for a club and for each hole.
"For 10 cents, you could play nine holes," she said. "I was a 10-cent entrepreneur."
Comparing life to the game of Life, McMahon thanked the many colorful "peg people" in her car who had befriended, shared, encouraged, pushed and believed in her over the years through the difficult spins.
But her passion has been golf — a sport that she said is about integrity and values, about setting goals, and about maintaining family and business relations. She started her company, eduKaytion Golf, "on the backside of the Berkshires" with cows as neighbors. Now, she her teaching model has expanded to seven sites and a half-dozen employees and instructors. The latest host for eduKaytion is Cranwell Spa & Resort.
"The secret is to learn continuously ... and play and play and play some more," she said. "My story is not a rags to riches story; it's a cows to Cranwell story."
He was especially appreciative to Berkshire Bank and its President Michael Daly for sticking with him through the ups and downs of his business, which manufauctures plastics used in the medical industry.
The bank, which dates to 1846, has greatly expanded since 1997 to include a partnership with Legacy Banks last year.
David Pedrotti of Modern Mold took the opportunity to tell personal stories about the institutions being saluted.
"They have deep roots within the county, which means giving back is a high priority," said Pedrotti, who cheerfully gushed over the bank's new state-of-the-art branches complete with coffee bars. "It takes so little time to go through these branches, you have time for coffee ... and when a bank gives you something for free — take it!" he said to laughter from the attendees in the Crowne Plaza's ballroom.
The bank has 100,000 customers, 853 employees who put in some 800,000 volunteer hours. and 1,399 commercial loans last year. "Many of us have achieved the dream of home ownership and college" because of the bank, said Pedrotti.
He reminded chamber members that they were all the descendants of immigrants, and the Berkshire Immigrant Center is helping the newest wave of newcomers to the Berkshires succeed. With a declining population, immigrants are becoming an increasingly important element to the county's work force — as well as enriching its culture and vitality, and stabilizing its political representation.
Opened in 1997 at first to provide support for immigrants seeking citizenship, the center has become instrumental in helping newcomers assimilate.
"It meets needs of 800 people every year from more than seven different countries ... We welcome them, we welcome them very much," said Pedrotti. "They are truly driven to succeed and work incredibly hard to support family members here and abroad."
He recalled his mother's stories of wonder at seeing the Statue of Liberty as she arrived in New York and how proud she was to become an American citizen. "If we'd had an immigrant center back then it would have saved her a lot of hassle," he said.
Pedrotti also had good things to say about Molari employment services, which has provided him with temporary help from time to time.
"It's a great asset for Berkshire businesses," he said. "Did you know one in five of their employees are hired by their host firm? They're in a unique position to be both a cheerleader for the local economy and a resource. ... "Keep up the great work.
McMahon and Pedrotti pose with chamber President Michael Supranowicz and Chairman Gerald Burke.
Molari was established in 1983 and now has some 450 temporary placement workers in the skilled employee and health care fields. It provides staffing services for 150 businesses and has seen growth in manufacturing needs over the past two years.
The oldest of the salutes was the Pittsfield Public Schools. Established in 1766, the school system educates more than 6,000 students. Reid Middle School and Morningside Community School were singled out for their students performances on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests; the district overall has seen a decrease in dropouts and increased performance in arts programming and athletics.
The system boasts a teacher student ratio of 1 to 11.9, lower than the state average, and has been rated at the top among similar urban schools. Those are measure businesses look at when they're considering Pittfield, said Pedrotti. He recalled the teachers who had made the greatest impressions on him and set him on a path to engineering, including his geometry teacher Chuck Vincelette.
"I'm a product ... it looks like your product has gotten better over the years," he joked.
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