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Updated: January 8, 2024 / 2024 Best of Business Awards

Best of Business 2024: Best Professional Services

A large group of employees and their families gather for the UMass Cancer Walk. Photo | Courtesy of Mirick O'Connell Worcester firm Mirick O'Connell won the Best Law Firm honor in WBJ's Best of Business awards.

Best Law Firm: Mirick O’Connell

Mirick O’Connell has been around for more than 100 years and has solidified itself in Central and Eastern Massachusetts with locations in Worcester, Westborough, and Boston. To set itself apart from the many other law firms that have popped up since its founding in 1916, Mirick O’Connell puts an emphasis on making a lasting impact for clients and their interests, said Paul Carey, partner and member of the management committee at the firm.

“We really try to make a difference in our clients' businesses and their lives,” Carey said.

Mirick O’Connell has a diverse client base, all the way from Fortune 500 companies down to individuals. The firm approaches each with a tailor-made approach, ensuring all clients get what they need in the present and in the long term.

“We like for our clients to view us as their strategic partners,” said Carey.

Mirick O’Connell has helped large and small businesses through the tumultuous COVID-era economy and has assisted with efforts to recover and revamp. As federal dollars and governmental intervention on the business level has receded after emergency declarations were dialed back, companies have struggled more, said Carey. Mirick O’Connell has taken the moment as an opportunity to help companies do better.

The firm was instrumental as Worcester dessert manufacturer Table Talk Pies revitalized, which involved collaboration across different disciples at Mirick O’Connell with the goal of keeping the firm in Worcester and helping it thrive.

“We are really committed to the Worcester and Central Massachusetts communities and have been for over 100 years,” said Carey. “That always has been and always will be a focus at the firm.”

The firm has embraced the hybrid work environment and is constantly reevaluating how best to keep employees engaged and connected. It hosts pop-up events, like game nights or corn hole tournaments, in an effort to make clear to employees they are valued and part of a team.

To stay sharp, the firm puts an emphasis on recruiting talented, diverse new attorneys, and offers summer associate roles to law students. Mirick O’Connell collaborates with the Boston Legal Group on recruitment, which advocates for lawyers of color.

The firm’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is constantly evolving, said Carey. A vibrant DEI committee at the firm regularly reevaluates what the firm should do to elevate its efforts.

“We want to better reflect and service our clients and community,” he said.

- Story by Isabel Tehan

*denotes repeat winner

Best Credit Union: Digital Federal Credit Union

Digital Federal Credit Union began in 1979 as a financial institution for employees of Central Massachusetts tech giant Digital Equipment Corp. Since then, it’s become a regional leader, with more than $12 billion in assets and 1.1 million members.

And, somewhere along the line, a funny thing happened. Members began signing up not just from the Massachusetts and New Hampshire communities where the credit union has physical branches, but from all the country. Today, about half its members are from outside that geographical area, living in every state and Puerto Rico.

“DCU didn’t have a goal to become national,” President and CEO Shruti Miyashiro said. “It became national because of how we deliver products and services.”

Miyashiro said the credit union grabbed the attention of potential members around the country by getting recognition for its products – from high-yield savings accounts to low-interest credit cards – in publications like Money Magazine and Business Insider. It’s not just the cold numbers that matter to potential members, Miyashiro said, but the purpose of the credit union, which revolves around the diverse needs of the people it serves.

“We define our success as measured by the success of the people who bank with us,” she said.

The trust DCU inspires has been an especially important asset in 2023, a year with some of the largest bank failures ever, including the dramatic collapse of California-based Silicon Valley Bank in March.

“Consumers have been frustrated by traditional banking,” Miyashiro said. “For us, it’s turned into an opportunity for growth, because members who do the research on us see we have a very strong capital position.”

A large group of DCU credit union employees stand with bed frames.
Photo | Courtesy of Digital Federal Credit Union
DCU partnered with nonprofit A Bed For Every Child to assemble beds for those in need.

At the same time, DCU stays true to its roots, including a notable commitment to Massachusetts immigrant communities. During its early years, many of the DEC employees it served were in the country on H1B visas and were unable to get services like car loans from traditional institutions.

So DCU developed an expertise in serving that market, and today it does steady business with the growing immigrant communities of Central Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire.

DCU balances different types of banking, cultivating a commercial lending side to complement its majority retail business. Miyarshiro said it’s seen 9% growth in its commercial portfolio over the past year, focusing largely on real estate in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

“We have a really well-diversified portfolio,” she said. “We want to make sure that we’re helping both commercial and retail consumers.”

The credit union continues to support local communities with its DCU for Kids foundation. It works closely with partners around the region to provide food, health care, and other needs for children.

“Giving back is rooted in the ethos of DCU,” Miyashiro said.

- Story by Livia Gershon

Best Health Insurance Provider: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts*

Headquartered in Boston with offices in Worcester, Hingham, and Quincy

www.bluecrossma.com

Top executive: CEO Sarah Iselin

Founded: 1937

Employees: 4,000

As part of its role in trying to stem the opioid epidemic, Blue Cross made the decision to cover, with no cost share to members in Massachusetts, the overdose reversal medication Narcan for over-the-counter nonprescription use. This was part of the insurer’s broader commitment to providing health insurance affordably, equitably, and seamlessly.

Notable runner-up: Harvard Pilgrim Health Care

Best Community for Business: City of Worcester

PHOTO | Timothy Doyle
Worcester City Hall

Worcester, WorcesterMA.gov

Top executive: City Manager Eric Batista

Founded: Incorporated as a City 1848

Employees: 1,942

City of Worcester officials believe the backbone of its local economy is the thousands of locally owned and diverse small businesses. In 2023, the City leveraged nearly $2 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to provide grants to 200+ small businesses, understanding many companies are still confronting the lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Notable runners-up: City of Marlborough, Town of Shrewsbury

Best Chamber of Commerce: Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce*

Worcester, worcesterchamber.org

Top executive: President and CEO Timothy Murray

Founded: 1875

Employees: 14

The Worcester chamber is the largest in New England, serving 2,300+ members in 35 Central Massachusetts communities, along with seven affiliate chambers in Auburn, Blackstone Valley, Clinton area, Latin American Business Organization, Wachusett area, and Webster, Dudley, Oxford. The chamber hosts 200 events each year, including in September for a special business and government forum focused on creating more economic opportunities with Ghana.

Notable runners-up: Corridor 9/495 Regional Chamber of Commerce, Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce

Best Bank: UniBank*

Whitinsville, www.unibank.com

Branches: 14

Top executives: Michael Welch, CEO; Christopher Foley, president; Justine DeNorscia, executive vice president

Founded: 1870

Employees: 271

With $2.1 billion in local deposits and $2.6 billion in assets, UniBank strives to be a true local community bank for businesses, individuals and governments, with initiatives like local hiring, supporting local businesses, and active participation in community events.

Notable runners-up: Cornerstone Bank, Fidelity Bank, Bay State Savings Bank

Best Accounting Firm: Bollus Lynch, LLP Certified Public Accountants & Consultants*

Worcester, Bolluslynch.com

Top executive: Managing Partner Michael Bollus

Founded: 1989

Employees: 33

With 15 certified professional accountants on staff, Bolus provides audit, tax, and general business advisory services to clients in a professional, timely, and economical manner. The firm serves a wide variety of industries, including professional services, nonprofits, manufacturing, higher education, financial institutions, and life sciences.

Notable runners-up: Stowe & Degon, S&G LLP

Best Forensic Accountant: McLaren & Associates CPAs*

A group of McLaren employees stand in front of a sign.
Photo | Courtesy of McLaren & Associates CPAs
Staff at McLaren & Associates CPAs

Shrewsbury and Boston, dmclarencpa.com

Top executive: David McLaren, founder and managing partner

Founded: April 2005

Employees: 26

In 2023, McLaren increased its workforce by 50%. The company is a certified B Corp, meaning its business model is built on the principle of focusing on driving positive outcomes for clients and society. By prioritizing improving people’s lives and wellbeing through its services, McLaren believes the company will attain strong and sustainable success.

Notable runners-up: Aaron T. White, CPA; Hocheiser CPA

Best Financial Planning/Investment Services Firm: Provo Wealth Management Group*

Shrewsbury, provowealth.com

Top executive: President & CEO Christopher Provo

Founded: 1992

Employees: About 7

Provo offers a variety of services, including specializing in business owner wealth management, family wealth management, and certified divorce financial management. The company offers a number of workshops, including for taxes in retirement, Social Security, identity theft and cybersecurity, and helping women take control of their money.

Notable runners-up: Bartholomew & Co., Carr Financial Group, Fidelity Investments

Best Advertising Agency: PENTA Communications*

Westborough, www.pentamarketing.com

Top executive: Founder & CEO Deborah Penta

Founded: 1989

Employees: 16

PENTA has worked with hundreds of companies over the years, helping them to grow, strategize, and scale up. PENTA provides a holistic and consultative approach to every client, with services including design and creative services, brand creation, website design, marketing consulting, public relations consulting, event planning, social media, eMarketing, advertising, media and media buying services, and corporate consulting.

Notable runners-up: Jade, GEM Marketing Solutions, Pagano Media

Best Business Insurance Agency: Sullivan Insurance Group*

Worcester, Needham Heights, and Orleans

www.sullivangroup.com

Top executive: President & CEO John Andreoli

Founded: 1957

Employees: 55

As part of its mentorship program, Sullivan has been cross-training newer employees in different aspects of the business, and in 2023, a number of employees earned new designations, took on more responsibility, and were promoted. This follows executives’ belief about the key to Sullivan’s success being teamwork.

Notable runners-up: Gaudette Insurance Agency, Knight-Dik Insurance

Best Logistics Company: Euro-American Worldwide Logistics*

Worcester, eawlogistics.com

Top executive: President Eric Busenburg

Founded: 1965

Employees: 27

In 2023, Euro-American strengthened its relationships with life sciences and biotech companies, coinciding with its 20,000-square-foot expansion. Its goal is to support the growth of these businesses. The company views its bespoke customer service as the paramount deciding factor as to why clients choose Euro-American.

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