Unistress Corporation, Pittsfield
The future of Unistress Corporation is every bit as expansive as the sprawling New NY Bridge being built across the Hudson River with the company’s massive precast concrete deck panels.
Pittsfield-based Unistress, the state's only manufacturer of large precast/prestressed concrete structures, is working on the replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge as part of a $70 million contract that is the largest in the company’s 48-year history. The project prompted Unistress to invest more than $6 million to expand its facilities on Cheshire Road and hire more than 150 new workers to bring its total work force to more than 500 people.
Manufacturing the deck of a bridge that will handle eight traffic lanes, four breakdown lanes, a bicycle and pedestrian path, state-of-the-art traffic monitoring systems and accommodations for either light rail or commuter rail is nothing new for a company that worked extensively on the Big Dig project in Boston. Unistress has also worked on parking garages, railway stations, and stadiums, including the new Yankee Stadium.
The $100 million-a-year company has completed more than 500 precast structures throughout the Northeast and has won numerous awards for excellence from its peers. The Unistress plant has been certified for more than 45 years under the Precast/Prestressed Concrete (PCI) Plant Certification Program.
Unistress is part of a family of construction companies that dates back to the nadir of the Depression in 1936. Italian immigrant Basilio Petricca struck out on his own and improbably won the opportunity to rebuild seven bridges over the Hoosac River that had been destroyed by a hurricane. Though he had never before built a bridge and used his pickup track as an office, Petricca got the job done and made the bridges passable again.
“We don’t do a lot of cookie-cutter jobs. Construction managers who work with us know we can get even the most complex jobs done for them. They don’t ask us if we can do it—they ask when we can get it done,” said Perri Petricca, the current Unistress Chief Executive and the grandson of Basilio.
The Chamberlain Group, Great Barrington
How does a group of high-end visual effects professionals working in movies and television end up improving the quality of medical care for millions of people?
Chamberlain.jpgIf you’re The Chamberlain Group in Great Barrington, you use your visual effects wizardry to make mimetic organs for surgical and interventional training.
Chamberlain’s life-like organs are used in the sophisticated simulation labs that medical schools, hospitals and medical device makers employ to train surgeons. The company’s mission is to “bring practice to the practice of medicine.”
The Chamberlain Group’s products are sold to more than 150 medical-device manufacturers and teaching institutions in 50 countries, including Russia and India, Asia and the Middle East, and in virtually all 50 states domestically. Their client list includes Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, Cleveland Clinic, Lahey Clinic, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the Mayo Clinic, and NASA.
Berkshire Business Quarterly magazine said, “The Chamberlain Group’s design ingenuity has been a breakthrough for the medical community. Models look, weigh, and feel just like real living tissue and provide a better training device than a cadaver, animal, or lesser-realized product would.”
Eric and Lisa Chamberlain launched The Chamberlain Group in 1999 after working for New York design firms that made miniature models and special visual effects for films ranging from Gandhi, Tootsie, and The Big Chill to Ghostbusters, Predator and Woody Allen’s Zelig. Medical schools and device manufacturers were beginning to move away from cadavers and animals in their training programs and the Chamberlains saw opportunity in the burgeoning simulation business.
It was a textbook case of nimble entrepreneurs adapting skills from one industry to a seemingly unrelated one. The result is a thriving enterprise with 23 employees working in an 8,500-square-foot design and manufacturing facility.
“When we began our work in anatomy in the late 90’s, there was no such thing as a ‘simulation industry.’ Without an institutional or disciplinary bias, with no set formula to follow, we have entertained all possibilities. We have held to the high standards of our visual effects work to inform our product development: be excellent, try anything, stay nimble,” Lisa Chamberlain says.
The company earlier this year earned the 2016 Exporter of the Year designation for Massachusetts and New England by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
No one has done more to reinvigorate manufacturing in Massachusetts than John (Jack) Healy, who retired recently after guiding the Worcester-based Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and Manufacturing Assistance Center (MAC) for 17 years.
Healy had already logged a full career as a manufacturing executive at companies like LEGO and Presmet when he became founding Director of Operations for both MassMEP and the MAC in 1999. He quickly energized both organizations and set them about helping hundreds of small and medium-sized manufacturers implement growth opportunities through advanced manufacturing and management practices.
MassMEP has worked with 1,800 manufacturers since its inception, providing these companies with consulting, business and management advice through its professional project managers. The organization has also created job-training programs, established skill standards and associated testing, and advocated for manufacturing needs to policymakers. Healy geared these services primarily to the small manufacturing companies that have come to dominate the Massachusetts economy during the past three decades.
But Healy’s most enduring legacy will come from his efforts to address the critical shortage of workers with the skills needed by manufacturers to compete globally. His accomplishments include the creation of an award-winning Mobile Outreach Skills Training (M.O.S.T) Program, which trains and recruits future workers with little or no prior manufacturing experience for entry level production jobs; and a comprehensive machinist training curriculum that extends from basic skills through bachelor’s degrees.
Those efforts have had particular resonance in Worcester and central Massachusetts, where manufacturing constitutes about $6.4 billion worth of economic activity. Manufacturing represents 19.9 percent of the private sector's gross domestic product in the central region compared to 12 percent statewide.
“If we lost manufacturing in the metropolitan Worcester area, we would be in tough shape," Healy told the Worcester Business Journal.
Congressman James McGovern of Worcester notes that Healy has played a key role in the ``Manufacturing Our Future'' effort in Massachusetts, which has served as a catalyst for developments like Worcester's Gateway Park.
MassMEP has received numerous awards under Healy’s leadership, including a 2011 Workforce Training Partnership of the Year Award from the Workforce Solutions Group, the 2011 John Gould Education & Workforce Development Award from AIM and the 2010 Group Innovator of the Year from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Hanover Insurance Group, Worcester
The Hanover Insurance Group has a more than 160-year history in Worcester, but with a new chief executive at the helm and record results for its most recent year, the $5 billion company has its focus firmly forward.
The Hanover is the holding company for several property and casualty insurance companies, and one of the oldest continuous businesses in the United States still operating within its original industry. The company provides a wide range of property and casualty products and services to individuals, families, and businesses, and distributes its products through a select group of independent agents and brokers.
Together with its agents, the company offers specialized coverages for small and mid-sized businesses, as well as insurance protection for homes, automobiles, and other personal items. In addition, through its international member company, Chaucer, The Hanover also underwrites business at Lloyd's of London in several major insurance and reinsurance classes, including marine, property and energy.
The company has been successfully transformed over the past decade, from a predominantly regional insurer into a global property and casualty insurance player, writing business across the United States and in approximately 175 other countries. The Hanover currently employs approximately 1,900 people in Massachusetts – the vast majority in Worcester – and about 4,800 people in total.
The Hanover also has earned a reputation as a concerned and active corporate citizen, helping to create positive and lasting change in Greater Worcester and in the communities where its employees live and work. The company works with its many community partners to address a range of needs, placing a special emphasis on youth and education, donating millions of dollars each year to the United Way and to a host of non-profit organizations.
The breadth of The Hanover’s community involvement is underscored by the fact that it will accept its award in the renovated downtown theater to which it committed $2 million in 2006, as part of an initiative to stimulate economic development.
The Hanover launched a new chapter in its corporate history on May 16 when it named former Aetna executive Joseph M. Zubretsky as its new president and chief executive officer. Zubretsky succeeded longtime CEO Frederick H. Eppinger.
Zubretsky joined The Hanover after almost nine years at Aetna, where he served in a number of key senior executive positions, most recently as chief executive officer at Healthagen Holdings, a group of healthcare services and information technology companies.
Smith & Wesson, Springfield
Smith & Wesson has been a cornerstone of the Pioneer Valley manufacturing economy since Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson began to produce the Model 1 revolver in Springfield in 1856. The company’s storied history traces an arc from the old west to the Imperial Army of the Russian Tsar to outfitting thousands of laws enforcement officers in the United States and abroad.
But beyond its own success, Smith & Wesson has been a crucible of technology and skills that have fueled the development of a metal machining hub in western Massachusetts that now serves industries from aerospace to medical devices.
Smith & Wesson Corp. today is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of firearms. The company is expected to generate more than $900 million in annual sales in its current fiscal year. It also employs more than 1,700 people, most at its sprawling manufacturing plant on Roosevelt Avenue.
Smith & Wesson has delivered tremendous organic and inorganic growth in firearms, and in 2010 moved 225 new jobs to Springfield as a result of its earlier acquisition of Thompson/Center Arms in New Hampshire.
In addition to growing its historical and sizeable firearms business, Smith & Wesson has recently expanded beyond firearms. It acquired accessories maker Battenfeld Technologies in 2014, and in August of this year added Taylor Brands to its list of acquisitions. Taylor is a designer and distributor of high-quality knives and specialty tools.
Then Smith & Wesson purchased a leader in laser sighting products, Crimson Trace. Smith & Wesson paid $180 million in cash for both the Crimson Trace and Taylor acquisitions.
In addition to Smith & Wesson’s rich legacy of supporting philanthropic efforts in the community throughout the decades, the company has more recently taken a visible role in addressing the critical shortage of trained machinists that is affecting all areas of Massachusetts. The Smith & Wesson Technology Applications Center was created at Springfield Technical Community College to host STCC’s manufacturing and engineering technology programs, which prepare students for jobs in modern, computerized precision-machine shops. It’s is just one of many programs that the company has supported to help deliver economic growth.
Among Smith & Wesson’s best known products over the years have been the .38 Military & Police Revolver, now known as the Model 10, a firearm that has been used extensively by police forces and has been in continuous production since 1899; the Model 29 .44 Magnum revolver made famous by Clint Eastwood in his Dirty Harry movies; and the popular M&P line of polymer pistols and rifles.
Smith & Wesson Corp. is the main operating subsidiary of the publicly traded Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation.