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All Rise: Bay Path Alumni Help Shape A New Era in Springfield

Whether it’s the hum of construction equipment, the bees in a revamped city park or the voices of a crowd catching an outdoor concert, there’s a buzz in Springfield.

In a commercial for MGM Springfield, a jubilant procession of beautiful, multi-ethnic merrymakers crosses Memorial Bridge into the city’s downtown. Even though the ad is essentially selling Vegas-style fun, there’s a deeper sentiment in the imagery. That ebullient group coming over the bridge captures the drive—and the groove—of those who are working to usher Springfield into its next era.

Since the June 2011 tornado, more than $4 billion in construction projects have been completed or are in the planning process, including $400.4 million in new projects announced since March 2018. According to Brian Connors, Deputy Director of Economic Development for the City of Springfield, “This is an unprecedented number for a city of Springfield’s size.” Projects slated for the city include residential units, hotels and a downtown dining district.

Bay Path is well represented in a league of movers, shakers and change makers who are bringing their talents to Springfield’s next chapter. Meet the Bay Path alumni who are helping shape Springfield’s next era.

Lindsay Hackett '03 G'09

Lindsay Hackett '03 G'09
Budget Director, Office of the Mayor

A love of numbers, a knack for data and a sentimental connection to Springfield landed Lindsay Hackett '03 G'09 her current job. As the city’s Budget Director, she oversees a $682 million budget, the amount it takes to run the police, fire and municipal departments, without neglecting roads, school buildings, parks or any other infrastructural necessities.

Although raised in Palmer, Hackett seemed pulled to Springfield at every phase of her life. “I remember taking the bus to Johnson’s Bookstore on Main Street with my grandmother and then seeing my Pepe, who was a Springfield police officer on Main Street, doing his job. My great grandparents were very active in the community, and I imagine them walking up the stairs to City Hall, a place I come every day for work. It’s all full circle.”

For Hackett, a self-professed “numbers geek” who received her master’s degree in Communications and Information Management and bachelor’s in Liberal Studies at Bay Path, the pragmatism of balancing finances and projecting revenues is tinged with the thrill that comes from seeing ideas evolve into realized projects, such as the MGM casino, or community initiatives, such as a youth reading program run through the city’s libraries. “To me, a number is a number, and I came to my finance and budget geekiness from data. As far as my love for data, that came through the Communications and Information Science program and Professor Richard Briotta, who was the greatest.”

Today, Hackett lives with her husband and daughter in the city’s Sixteen Acres neighborhood. Her past, present and future relationship to Springfield gives her an optimal vantage point for watching—and helping—it change.

“The casino won’t solve all of our problems. We need the spin-off effect; we need jobs to come here. We need restaurants to open. We need people to come to the city and eat at the restaurants. We need people to live here and send their kids to school here. We’re the City of Firsts, and there’s a sort of glamour and nostalgia in that. We’re bringing it back.”

 

We’re bringing a sort of glamour and nostalgia < br/> back to the City of Firsts.”

Julie Pagnoni, bartender, left, and Alisa Garanzha G’17

Alisa Garanzha G'17
Owner, Naismith’s Pub & Pretzel

When Alisa Garanzha G'17 was seven years old, a pack of bubble gum at a corner store in her Kiev, Ukraine neighborhood sent her down a pivotal path. When repeated pleas for the gum were met with a steady stream of parental “no’s,” she headed into her backyard, picked bunches of flowers, and sold them as bouquets to sidewalk passers. Needless to say, she got the gum.

Years later, she brought that entrepreneurial instinct to western Massachusetts, where she channeled it into an MBA in Entrepreneurial Thinking and Innovative Practices at Bay Path, and now, a restaurant in downtown Springfield, Naismith’s Pub & Pretzel.

While at Bay Path, her capstone project focused on efficient reuse of large retail spaces. The program also introduced her to local resources available for burgeoning business owners, including the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center. Wheels started to turn. “It’s way more difficult to open a business in the Ukraine. Unless you have a ton of money, you can’t get credit. Springfield has a lot of community programs that help you build a business. There are so many opportunities for immigrants, especially for start-ups,” she notes.

Seeing potential in the city’s pristine architecture and downtown vibe, Garanzha and her husband, Ed Kenney, a Springfield native she describes as a “real estate guy,” bought the Worthington Street building that houses the restaurant. They live in one of its loft apartments as neighbors (and landlords) to tenants who also appreciate the density, energy—and volume—of city living. “Our tenants are young professionals, millennials, a few from the restaurant industry. They’re in the heart of downtown, close to the museums and the restaurants…they love it.”

When the couple first viewed the building’s ground floor, it was dirty, disheveled and strewn with remnants of the previous Naismith’s Pub which had closed in 2008. As the beauty of its blonde wood, steel fixtures and tin ceilings were gradually revealed, the idea of leasing the space to another restaurateur morphed into Garanzha’s own visions for it.

They kept the iconic name for a few reasons. A former college basketball player, Garanzha states, “When I learned that Naismith invented basketball here, I felt like the name fit.”

Naismith’s Pub & Pretzel offers a menu of select craft beers and pub food mainstays, developed around the soft pretzels Garanzha grew up with in the Ukraine. Served fresh from the oven, the pretzels are dense, bready and subtly sweet, punched up with of a sprinkle of salt. They’re based on a recipe from Garanzha’s grandmother, “an amazing cook. My whole neighborhood would smell these pretzels and come over to get one.”

In many ways, Garanzha is carrying on a Springfield tradition. “The community helped me build this place, and I’m hoping to help the community by giving them a place to come and new things to try. It’s exciting to be a part of this revitalization, and I really believe in Springfield.”

“There are so many opportunities…it’s exciting to be part of this revitalization. I really believe in Springfield.”

Samalid Hogan G'12

Samalid Hogan G'12
Regional Director, Massachusetts Small Business Development Center, Western Regional Office

Samalid Hogan G'12 knows the exact date she arrived in Springfield. It was January 16, 1996, when, at 16 years old, she moved from Puerto Rico with her mother and two siblings. At the time, she couldn’t have imagined the ways the city would shape her—or how she would shape it.

“My whole career has been based on helping improve economic development opportunities, creating economic opportunities for people, improving access to capital for small businesses, and working on community projects and infrastructure projects here in the city,” Hogan explains. She has the resume to back up that statement.

Upon receiving her bachelor’s degree in economics from UMass Amherst, Hogan (nee Maldonado) went to work for State Representative Cheryl Coakley-Rivera’s office, moving on to future jobs with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and the City of Springfield.

“I worked for the city for eight years. I was in charge of bringing in the community to discuss plans for revitalizing the South End, not just the infrastructure, but also the programming, the park, the Hollywood section. These were areas that had prostitution, drugs, real public safety concerns, so my time was dedicated to those issues.”

It was during her time working for the city that she enrolled in Bay Path’s MBA in Entrepreneurial Thinking and Innovative Practices. “Bay Path gave me the tools and the confidence to just go for it, put together my business plan and then sell it.” That plan resulted in CoWork Springfield, the city’s first membership-based co-working space, where Hogan focused on creating a culture of collaboration and networking for small businesses and independent contractors.

In her current role as Regional Director for the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center’s Western Massachusetts office, she’s able to continue to support aspiring business owners and entrepreneurs, helping them access capital and resources to either start or grow their businesses.

In the flurry of pomp and hype that positions a brand, spanking new casino as the rising tide that will lift all boats, Hogan is the calm in the storm. When discussing the casino, she’s quick to look past the narrative that portrays MGM as the embodiment of the city’s cosmopolitan make-over and more excited to speak to the ways the tax revenue it generates can be channeled into the nitty gritty of public safety and public works; initiatives that will inevitably trickle down to the small business owners and community members.

“In the South End, it’s night and day from where it was a decade ago. There’s so much opportunity to revitalize some of our vacant spaces with offices, headquarters and even some retail, but we need people with vision, commitment and resources to come and invest. I’m hoping, in the next 10 years or so, to be one of those people. Stay tuned!”