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The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce is a storied business organization wearing many, many hats.
As the largest chamber in Central Massachusetts, boasting more than 2,000 members, and approaching its 150th anniversary in 2025, perhaps this is to be expected.
“We’ve been around a long time,” said Karen Pelletier, the chamber’s executive vice president.
That history has included a series of notable milestones, including being home to the founding of what became the United Way of Central Massachusetts more than a century ago, and later, the Worcester Business Development Corp.
More recently, under the leadership of its president and CEO, Timothy Murray, the WRCC helped form the Economic Development Coordinating Council, a citywide collaborative body which includes the City of Worcester, WRCC, WBDC, and Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives. Together, council members work to prospect businesses looking to come to the area, and make sure any potential business location is set and ready to go.
Separately, the chamber works with local colleges and universities to both shore up the Central Massachusetts workforce and support nascent businesses coming out of those schools, including through StartUp Worcester, an incubator program aimed at helping entrepreneurs grow and develop their businesses.
“When you are looking further back, the chamber has alway been thoughtful around starting and helping to incubate,” Pelletier said.
Suffice to say, Central Massachusetts is home to an involved, dedicated chamber of commerce that doesn’t shy away from partnering with the region’s power players.
Members are drawn to join the chamber for a variety of reasons, said Pelletier. At any given time, 80% of its members are small businesses with 10 employees or less, which generally means the business owner is the point of contact working directly with WRCC. For these companies, the chamber serves as a resource to help support a variety of operational needs, from human resources to compliance issues, as well as through training.
Larger businesses, Pelletier said, are frequently joining the chamber because they’re interested in prospecting and doing business with other businesses and organizations. Still others join because of what she called the good neighbor rationale, i.e. a desire to contribute and support the WRCC’s work on behalf of the larger business community.
“I really think our secret has a lot to do with the people,” Pelletier said. “Our members are amazing.”
And at the end of the day, those are the people the WRCC 12-person full-time staff supports.
“We’re in the service business,” Pelletier said.
-- Story written by Monica Benevides
* denotes repeat winner
Best Family-owned Business
Angel-Guard Products, Inc. & US Tool and Fastener
Location: Worcester, www.angelguardproducts.com & www.ustoolandfastener.com
Top executive: President Casey Cormier
Employees: 12 full time, 4 part time and seasonal
In, 2021, Angel-Guard marked its 30th year in business, and the company closed it out as a record-setting year. The firm placed several of its locally invented products in Lowe’s and Tractor Supply Co. Its retail division, US Tool and Fastener, became the fastest-growing Festool dealer in New England. At its core, the company believes success comes from treating people right, placing employees first.
Best Credit Union
Digital Federal Credit Union*
Location: Marlborough, www.dcu.org
Top executive: President & CEO Jim Regan
DCU is the largest credit union in Central Massachusetts, with $10 billion in assets and nearly 1 million members spread across its 24 locations. Its membership is open to anyone living or working in Worcester, along with several communities in the region. During the COVID pandemic, DCU assisted local business owners to secure nearly 300 Paycheck Protection Program loans totaling $16.8 million.
Notable runners-up: Webster First Credit Union, Leominster Credit Union
Best Forensic Accountant
McLaren & Associates CPA’s, PC*
Location: Shrewsbury, www.dmclarencpa.com
Top executive: David McLaren
McLaren & Associates specializes in providing expertise in financial situations requiring litigation, accurately and quickly picking up on clues others tend to miss. McLaren has never failed to produce proof of fraud for corporate situations, estates, bankruptcy filings, or divorce cases. In 2021, the firm grew to the largest in its history, with 16 employees, while recovering from a COVID outbreak.
Best Law Firm
Location: Worcester, www.mirickoconnell.com
Additional locations: Westborough and Boston
Top executive: David Surprenant, managing partner
Employees: 124, including the partners
One of Mirick O’Connell’s greatest strengths is a collegial and respectful work environment where individuals with a variety of backgrounds, perspectives, and life experiences come together to provide outstanding legal representation and client service. Its attorneys and professionals strive for excellence, whether serving clients or supporting the community.
Notable runners-up: Fletcher Tilton PC, Bowditch & Dewey
Best Accounting Firm
Stowe & Degon LLC
Location: Westborough, www.stowedegon.com
Additional location: Topsfield
Top executives: Founding Partners Michael Stowe & David Degon
Using its auditing, tax, and advisory services as its foundation, Stowe & Degon aims to be highly responsive to its clients, so the company is their first call whenever opportunities or problems surface. In 2021, this meant advancing a multitude of filings for the Employee Retention Credit and the Payroll Protection Program, two of the main federal initiatives designed to keep companies thriving throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Notable runners-up: Bollus Lynch Certified Public Accountants and Consultants, McLaren & Associates CPA’s, PC
Best Minority-owned Business
Location: Worcester, hellostudiojade.com
Top executive: CEO Brittany Wong
Studio Jade was established as a full-service marketing agency in 2021, offering outsourced marketing solutions to companies of all sizes nationally. The firm is picky about the work it takes on. In order to do disruptive work, Studio Jade has to be the right fit for a client, and the client has to be the right fit for the company.
Best Woman-owned Business
Location: Marlborough, www.sullivan-benefits.com
Top executive: President & Owner Chrystine Heier
In 2021, Sullivan became a certified woman-owned business under the rigorous and stringent Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, providing access to education and development programs to further the company’s growth. Sullivan’s commitment to diversity goes well beyond gender, creating an innovative culture with an engaged and committed team.
Notable runners-up: PENTA Communications, Inc., Studio Jade
Best Business Insurance Agency
Sullivan Insurance Group*
Location: Worcester, www.sullivangroup.com
Additional locations: Needham Heights, Orleans
Top executive: President & CEO John Andreoli
Sullivan operates on a values-based management model, placing family values, independence, respect, commitment to excellence, honesty, integrity, and service to community at the top. In 2021, Sullivan transitioned back to servicing clients in the office, although in a hybrid schedule, bringing back some normalcy. The agency is working on the next generation, as it hired entry-level service staff and implemented a cross training and mentorship program.
Notable runners-up: Horizon Insurance, Inc., Murphy Insurance Agency
Location: Whitinsville, www.unibank.com
Top executives: CEO Michael Welch, President Christopher Foley & Executive Vice President Justine DeNorscia
With $2.5 billion in assets, UniBank provided $163 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans to support local businesses during the COVID crisis. In 2021, the bank established the UniBank Charitable Foundation, seeded with $2 million. The mission is to improve the overall quality of life for those in Central Massachusetts.
Notable runners-up: Fidelity Bank, Main Street Bank