Take a walk along the Connecticut River in Springfield at noon and there’s a good chance you’ll pass someone from The Dennis Group on a lunchtime run. Or you may see team Dennis playing frisbee in a downtown park. This is in stark contrast with the reported lunchtime habits of other downtown employees. There are stories of office tower employees who drive into parking garages and never leave the confines of their offices.
“It’s the company that brought me here, but I’m loving life in the city,” says Nathan Willbanks. This 22-year-old mechanical engineer took a job downtown and an apartment two blocks from the office. He joined Dennis last summer and is still discovering Springfield’s treasures. “I’ve never been to the museums so I’m excited to see them.”
The Dennis Group designs and builds food-processing plants all over the world. Tom Dennis founded the company in the attic of his Springfield home 26 years ago. Since then, the firm has become a global leader in its industry, employing 150 in its world headquarters – still in the city – and another 80 in California and Utah.
Willbanks isn’t alone in his enthusiasm for his employer or the city.
|There’s a bad and good part of each town. But if you concentrate on the good, good things will come.|
Born in Russia, Marina Korniyenko, an Administrative Project Manager, immigrated to Springfield, went to high school here and now lives in Newington, CT. She’s a 9-year Dennis veteran. “Part of the reason I travel so far is I really don’t want to leave the company. I love it and I love the city.”
“There’s this walk I take at lunch. We go up State Street and down Taylor to this little area. It’s historic and beautiful. If you bring anybody there they say ‘Wow, are we in Boston?’” No, they’re on Mattoon Street with its stunning brownstones and prestigious arts festival.
Korniyenko’s walk ends back at work – 1537 Main Street. “Someone stopped me and said they know of this building because they read about it in a Doctor Seuss story.”
Christopher Cove is a 20-year veteran Project Manager who lives in Longmeadow where the calm contrasts with the din of the city. “What I like about Springfield is you have choices every day about what you can do. I enjoy that.”
Corporate culture is often a dirty word, sometimes a yoke around an employee’s neck. But not at the Dennis Group, where there is just one rule. “You’re expected to act like a professional,” says Cove. “As long as you keep that in mind, everything goes well.”
Obeying the rules means you can wear a necktie, or not. You can play frisbee at lunch with the others, read in the park or work-out in the company’s gym. The boss even buys tickets to charity events, inviting his team to go and support the city. On any number of occasions, Tom Dennis could have moved his corporate headquarters out of Springfield but he chose to remain and to continue to invest in the city he and his family call home.
While the employees are upbeat about Springfield, they acknowledge its blemishes. “There’s a bad and good part of each town,” says Korniyenko. “But if you concentrate on the good, good things will come.”
Photo credit: Chris Marion | chrismarion.com
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