Located in southwestern Massachusetts, Springfield is the urban and economic center of the Connecticut River Valley, also known as Pioneer Valley, and is packed with quality of life amenities for African Americans – most notably in the areas of economics and education. For this and many other reasons, we've named it one of the Best U.S. Cities for African Americans.
While Springfield is certainly not recession-proof, its diverse economy allowed it to spring back more quickly from the financial downturn of 2008, and now the city is poised for even more significant growth in the future, which is good news for African-American job seekers.
MassMutual Financial Group, Smith & Wesson gun manufacturer, Merriam Webster Inc. reference book publisher, Big Y Supermarkets and the American Hockey League are all headquartered here.
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Like most regions, health care is one of the fastest growing industries in the Pioneer Valley. Baystate Health is the largest employer in Springfield and the third largest employer in the entire state. Baystate Health has a long history of commitment to diversity and inclusion within its workforce. Employees are encouraged to join affinity groups such as Black Employees Connection and Baystate Pride. The Association of Diversity Councils named Baystate Health’s Diversity Council one of the top diversity councils in the country, and in 2013, the organization hosted the region's first Diversity & Inclusion Conference. The annual conference is open to the public and encourages discussion and engagement leading to a more inclusive workforce and community as a whole.
Several other organizations also are dedicated to leveling the educational and economic playing field for African Americans. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Services Inc, for example, provides numerous resources for African-American and Latino families – from after-school programs and mentoring to housing and parenting skills training. The group's Youth Cultural Education Organization helps prepare African-American students for college with SAT and ACT test prep and an annual tour of historically black colleges and universities.
According to a 2013 Houston Education Survey, African Americans are the ethnic group most likely to stress the importance of postsecondary education. With more than two dozen colleges and universities within a 15 mile radius of Springfield, African-Americans have a number of choices, including some of the country's most prestigious liberal arts institutions, such as Smith College, Mount Holyoke College. and Amherst College, the alma mater of the second African American ever to receive a college degree. Springfield is also home to Springfield College and the Springfield campus of the University of Massachusetts.
African Americans can also take advantage of the city's many cultural events and venues as well as the family-friendly attractions that have made the Pioneer Valley a popular tourist destination. The Pan African Historical Museum chronicles the struggles and successes of blacks in America, and Springfield Science Museum features the country's first planetarium. The latter is part of The Quadrangle, a campus of five museums. In the summer, residents look forward to the Hoop City Jazz Festival and the Caribbean Festival, celebrating the influence of West Indian culture in Springfield. Springfield is also two miles from Six Flags New England and the Eastern States Exposition, which hosts the state fair each year.