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Berkshire Enterprises Holding Free Business Breakfast Forum

Staff reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Enterprises is presenting the free business breakfast "Building and Maintaining Trust— One of the Keys to Successful Business," on Friday, March 5, from 7:30 to 9.

The forum will be a discussion of participants’ experiences dealing with others as customers, employees, bosses and business owners, with a look at what can be done to build and maintain trust. The forum will be lead by Steve Fogel, program director of Berkshire Enterprises.

The breakfast will take place at 1 Fenn St., on the third floor board room. Anyone who is interested in attending should register emailing Steve Fogel at sfogel@berkshireenterprises.com or by 413-441-3688 (cell). Space is limited and reservations are required.

 

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Job Summit Organizers Shrug Off Negative Press

By Tammy Daniels

Baldwin took to the airwaves last Friday to explain the circumstances that landed him prison.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The negative press on the principals isn't affecting Friday's Berkshire Job Summit in Pittsfield.

Allen Harris of Berkshire Money Management said Wednesday afternoon that a flurry of RSVPs this week had bumped the number of attending to more than 180.

"I've had more phone calls about Money Management in the last week than the last three months," he said. "It turned out pretty good."

The summit, focusing on the role of employers job creation rather than employment agencies, brings CNBC's senior analyst Ron Insara, Robert H. Nelson and P. Edgardo Tarratts of the Small Business Administration and marketing strategist Jonathem Salem Baskin.

Harris and fellow organizer Sherman Baldwin of WBRK talk show "TalkBerkshires" were the subject of an article in last Friday's Berkshire Eagle that delved into the two men's legal peccadillos.

Harris was ordered to pay $2 million to former employer Dion Money Management over a client list used to establish his business and was charged with misdemeanor assault over a bar fight in 1994.

Baldwin defrauded investors of  funds to ensure the completion of the cult hit film "The Crow" after the accidental death of its star Brandon Lee. The film went on to make $400 million worldwide. Baldwin, however, ended up in federal prison in 1999 for nearly a year and is still paying off a fine.

Harris described the story as an insult. "It was presented like it was new news. It was stuff that was already talked about. It was literally old news."

Neither man has disputed the main facts of the article but both were concerned over its effect — and a paired story on local  skepticism  — on the summit.

On Friday, after a "press conference" discussing the past charges against him on his radio show, Baldwin said most of the response had been positive. (The entire program, with responses by Eagle writer Clarence Fanto can be downloaded here.)

Representatives of the Small Business Administration debated declining their invite to the summit because of the negative press but have remained on board, said Harris.

Both said they remained committed to $1.5 million in equity investment to the right business - Harris with $1 million through BMM and Baldwin in $500,000 in advertising. Harris said they haven't back away from the investment but did say it was pulled from ads because they focus was too much on them and not on the summit.

Harris is focused on the morning summit that will take the more than a 100 business leaders through Insana's analysis of current conditions, the SBA's available programs and how to bring it all together in branding with Baskin.

"People aren't going to create jobs to makes themselves feel good, they're going to create jobs because their business in growing," he said. "By being brave, by natural self-interest, jobs will be created.

"What we need to do is have a conversation with people on how to make 2010 a good year."

As for the fallout about revelations of his past: "People are calling and they're not saying 'you're a jerk.'"

 

Note: The Eagle stories will disappear behind a paywall so read them quick.

 

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Alcombright to Speak at Williamstown Chamber Breakfast

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Williamstown Chamber of Commerce is holding its first breakfast meeting of 2010 on Wednesday, Feb. 24, with featured speaker Mayor Richard Alcombright. Mayor Alcombright will be speaking about his vision for collaborative development and growth efforts here in Northern Berkshire County, along with what is happening in the business scene in North Adams.

 

The breakfast will be hosted by Lickety Split at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and includes coffee, tea, orange juice, breakfast breads and muffins, scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast and fresh fruit. The event will run from 7:30 to 9 a.m.

Mass Moca will be offering free tours of the LeWitt exhibition and/or the galleries to anyone who can stay for a little bit after the breakfast.  No need to sign up in advance.

Cost for the breakfast is $15 for members, $20 for nonmembers. To reserve a place, call the Chamber office 413-458-9077, or email your reservation to info@williamstownchamber.com.

Update, Feb. 23.: Despite the snow, the breakfast is still on.  At 3:50 p.m. on Tuesday, iBerkshires received an e-mail from the Chamber, stating "We have decided to have the breakfast no matter what tomorrow at 7:30 a.m."

(If you've already RSVP'd and want to cancel, kindly send the Chamber an email by 7 a.m.)

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Wal-Mart Discrimination Suit Plaintiff to Speak in Lenox

Staff reports

LENOX, Mass. — Cynthia Haddad, who won a gender discrimination lawsuit against Walmart, the world's largest retailer, will speak about her experiences Monday, March 1, at the monthly meeting of Berkshire Business and Professional Women.

A unanimous decision by the state Supreme Judical Court on Oct. 5, 2009, awarded Haddad, a former Pittsfield Walmart pharmacist, a judgment of at least $2 million in damages. That decision upheld a June 2007 Berkshire Superior Court ruling that awarded Haddad $1 million for compensatory damages and another $1 million for punitive damages after Haddad claimed she was fired for demanding the same compensation as her male colleagues.

According to a Berkshire Eagle story on Oct. 6, 2009, Haddad was fired in 2004 after working at Walmart for more than 10 years, seven of them at the Pittsfield store. The company claimed she was fired because she left the pharmacy unattended and allowed a technician to use her computer security code to issue prescriptions in her absence. Haddad and her legal team said Haddad was really fired because she demanded to be paid as well as her male counterparts, including a bonus given to pharmacy managers. The company paid the bonus, then fired her two weeks later.

"I think that the Supreme Judicial Court confirmed that outrageous gender discrimination may be punished by a jury," co-counsel David Belfort said in the Eagle story. "More broadly, this is hopefully going to encourage women to have the fortitude to speak out if they are discriminated against based on who they are."

Born and raised in Oswego, N.Y., Haddad was in the baccalaureate program at Oswego High School, attending the State University of New York at Oswego while in high school. After attending SUNY-Oswego for two years, she transferred into the pharmacy program at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Sciences in Boston, graduating in 1984. She also completed a certification program in nuclear medicine.

Other than clinical rotations, Haddad has worked in the retail pharmacy setting her whole career and has belonged to numerous professional organizations, such as the American Pharmacists Association, over the years.

Haddad is married to William Haddad and has four children, ages 14 to 23. Her oldest son has Asperger's Syndrome and she continues to teach him self-advocacy, something she learned as a child from her own mother.

The March 1 meeting will be held at Cranwell Resort in Lenox. Networking begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and the speakers at 6 p.m. The cost is $28; reservations are required by Friday, Feb. 26. Info: mphillips@greylock.org.

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Pittsfield Movie Gallery Closing

Staff Reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city's losing one of its video rental stores with the closing of the Movie Gallery on Dalton Avenue.

Movie Gallery Inc. filed for reorganization of its American holdings under Chapter 11 bankruptcy at the beginning of February and announced the closure of nearly a third of its Movie Gallery, Hollywood Video and Game Crazy stores across the United States.

According the restructuring announcement on its Web Page, Movie Gallery said the liquidation and closures of 760 stores are "because they are not profitable and because funds from liquidating them can help us moving forward."

The Dalton Avenue store is selling off its inventory and should close within four to six weeks.

The closings do not affect the Hollywood Video on Merrill Road or the Movie Gallery in North Adams in the L-shaped mall. Also closing is the Movie Gallery at 68 Mohawk Trail, one of two Greenfield, and two stores in the Albany, N.Y., area.

Movie Gallery is the second-largest video and game renter after Blockbuster but it's been hammered by changes in rental services, particularly by upstarts like NetFlix and Redbox. This is the company's second bankruptcy in the past three years. The first shuttered at least 400 locations including the Movie Gallery in the Stop & Shop Plaza in North Adams.

The company, which once had more than 3,000 stores, expects to reduce to a stable "core" of 900, which means more closures are likely. The chain had $129 million in losses in the fourth quarter of 2009.

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