DevelopSpringfield celebrates fourth anniversary with annual dinner By Michelle Williams | Michelle.Williams@MassLive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 13, 2015 at 10:10 AM, updated March 15, 2015 at 9:41 AM
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DevelopSpringfield celebrates fourth anniversary with annual dinner

SPRINGFIELD -- Local business leaders joined politicians from across the state in highlighting the work DevelopSpringfield has done in its namesake city.

The group held their fourth annual dinner Thursday evening at the MassMutual Center.

Several politicians spoke of success in Springfield. Mayor Domenic J. Sarno heralded city recovery efforts following the 2011 tornado while reminding the crowd that some neighborhoods still need help.

Jay Ash, the Governor Charlie Baker-appointed state secretary of housing and economic development, compared the revitalization of Springfield to his efforts in Chelsea. He said people in Eastern Massachusetts are talking about Springfield. Additionally, he said with a laugh, that a new member of his team will be reminding him to keep Western Massachusetts in mind daily.

Katie Stebbins of Springfield, the former project manager of the Holyoke Innovation District who recently accepted a position in Ash's department as assistant secretary for technology and innovation, was in attendance. Ash thanked her on stage for her hard work in Western Massachusetts and said he looks forward to bringing it to a statewide level.

Three guests were honored at the dinner, presented with 2015 Partners in Progress awards. The winners include: Jerald Jay Griffin, Kevin Edward Kennedy and Evan Plotkin.

Griffin is a co-founder of the Stone Soul Festival and serves on several city efforts, including the Mason Square Health Task Force, as a commissioner on the Springfield Building Parks and Recreation Board and as a board member for the Old Hill Neighborhood Council and Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

Kennedy worked for over two decades in Congressman Richard E. Neal's office until accepting the position as chief development officer for the city of Springfield four years ago. During his time, Kennedy has spearheaded efforts to bring MGM Springfield to the city and other regional economic development opportunities.

Upon accepting the award, Kennedy told the crowd of his relationship with MGM. On his first day of work, Kennedy said Sarno called him into his office and asked him to handle "this little casino thing." Over the next several years, the city and gaming company campaigned to ensure MGM was the sole casino project in Western Massachusetts.

Reflecting on the negotiations, Kennedy said with a chuckle, "I think we did a pretty good job picking their pocket."

Before Kennedy was introduced to the stage, Sarno thanked him for his service, calling him a "coach" who brings out the best the city has to offer.

Plotkin is the president of NAI Plotkin, a Springfield-based real estate brokerage and management company. He has worked to revitalize the city through urban art installations including the giant sneaker sculptures and Court Square murals