Skip to main content

The Yankee Express

Lt. Gov. Polito, award winners highlight BVCC’s annual meeting

Legislators Paul Frost, David Muradian Jr., Mike Soter, Brian Murray and Joe McKenna give Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito a sendoff after her appearance at the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce’s 44th annual meeting.


Just when it seemed that the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting could not get any better, along comes Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito as a special guest—an unexpected coup for BVCC President Jeannie Hebert and her hardworking staffers Liz O’Neil and Kristen Kearnan.
As she prepared to leave Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton on November 16th after offering brief remarks at the outset of the 44th edition of the event—always the Chamber’s most ambitious and impressive production of the year—Ms. Polito accepted well wishes from local state legislators who crowded around her. Like Gov. Charlie Baker, she did not seek re-election in 2022.
“How was that for a nice surprise?” Ms. Hebert said to an appreciative audience.
“You must have some plans going forward, right?” Ms. Polito was asked, on her way out.
“You will see me again!” she responded with a smile, leaving everyone within earshot left to speculate about what future endeavors she might be referring to.
The breakfast meeting itself was crammed with all of the Chamber’s usual signature ingredients, including a chairman’s report from Kevin Hayes of Millbury Federal Credit Union, Ms. Hebert’s year-in-review comments and recognition of a number of member businesses celebrating anniversaries—UniBank topping the list as it marks a 150th. UniBank President Mike Welch acknowledged his own role in the institution’s long history in asserting “you can tell by my hairline that I have been here” for a while.
Both Mr. Hayes and Ms. Hebert cited the Chamber’s prowess in obtaining funding for businesses, organizations and economic development projects—totaling millions of dollars—as one of the achievements they are proudest of having made happen over the past twelve months. With the help of “our amazing legislators,” Ms. Hebert said.
Even after experiencing a devastating flood in their Linwood Mill offices in January, Ms. Hebert and her aides carried on. “It took us months to recover,” she said.
Mr. Hayes and Ms. Hebert pointed to such other prized pieces of the Chamber’s toolbox as the Blackstone Valley Hub for Workforce Development, now in operation for three years with expanded curriculums for training high school students and adult learners, and custom retraining for members’ incumbent employees; a new and stronger connection with the Blackstone Valley Education Foundation; and “our online format at ‘Ed2Go,’” which provides courses in everything from business leadership to certificate courses.
As is the case every fall, the Chamber saluted a number of deserving individuals.
Bob Minarik received the Economic Development Award for spearheading creation of “The Cubes at Gilboa” in the town of Douglas to meet the high demand for modern distribution space with an 1.1 million-square-foot warehouse being built on 83.8 acres in close proximity to the Mass Pike and Interstates 495 and 395. Mr. Minarik was introduced by UniBank’s Mike Welch.
The Chamber’s Cornerstone Award went to Rushford and Sons Brewhouse in Upton, a nano brewery founded by childhood friends Mike Rushford and Brian Goodman, and Eric Martin. In accepting the award from Sen. Ryan Fattman, Mr. Goodman said “I couldn’t think of a better present for my 40th birthday.”
Presenting the Gerry Gaudette Extra Mile Award for the eighteenth time in memory of his father, Lee Gaudette of Gaudette Insurance lauded winner Glenn King’s many contributions to community life—signified most recently by leading the way on the town of Northbridge’s purchase of the Castle Hill Farm property, which will be preserved for recreation and as conservation land.
Alise Breton of MCU was recognized with the Chamber’s Volunteer of the Year Award for her stellar work in a male-dominated profession. As Heather Elster of the Whitin Community Center put it in introducing Ms. Breton, “when she started in banking she didn’t even know how to complete a deposit ticket.” Now she is vice president of retail banking at MCU and chair of the Chamber’s Women’s Success Network.
All that the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce has accomplished was not lost on Guest Speaker John Penrose of Leading Indicator Systems (LIS), a Boston-based human capital assessment firm. Mr. Penrose spoke about how emotions play a pivotal role in the performance of “the agile mind.”
In noting the results of a survey Chamber members took that revealed how they organize their lives and careers in four areas—Self, Material, Social and Spiritual—Mr. Penrose said he was impressed that the Chamber’s focus is not about monetary gain.
“You’re here for the collective good and it’s really remarkable,” Mr. Penrose said.

Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.